City Targets New Employee Pay, Days Off, Tuition Costs

OCEAN CITY – Pay checks, sick days, holidays and vacations are no longer looking so promising when applying to work for the town of Ocean City, as the council begins to cut down on benefits in attempts to save costs.

During the Mayor and City Council meeting this week, a presentation was given on a study of the town’s benefits and compensations. Human Resources Director Wayne Evans displayed several different pay scale charts and compared them to the current pay scale of Ocean City’s employees.

Evans explained the effects of pay range adjustments. The market movement is anticipated to increase 2 to 3 percent. The combination of upward market movement and the reduction in Ocean City’s ranges of 2.5 to 5 percent results in a total downward trend in the town’s pay rates verses the market of 4.5 to 8 percent. Freezing the maximum pay in each grade will align Ocean City’s ranges with other Eastern Shore employers.

During the discussion, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas presented the 2005 Hendricks Study Chart, which exemplified an 8-percent decrease in pay scale compared to Ocean City’s current pay scale.

Pillas made a motion that the town should adopt the 2005 Hendricks Study as the model pay scale for new hires and no cap will be placed unless authorized by the Mayor and City Council. The existing pay scale will remain for current employees.

The term “new hires” do not include returning seasonal employees. Those employees will return to the existing pay scale as well, unless they change positions, which would shift them to a different grade in the pay scale, or if they shift between part-time and full-time positions.

The motion passed in a vote of 4-3, with Council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight, and Lloyd Martin in opposition.

Pillas conducted another motion later that evening that the Mayor and City Council needs to be notified of any change made in any full-time employment status of any position. This motion also passed with the only unanimous vote of the day.

The pay scale of new hires was not the only change during this week’s meeting. The council spent almost six hours eliminating many more benefits to working for the town.

The current benefit for town employees of sick, personal or bereavement days total to 18 days a year and can be accrued to 30 days total.

Councilman Joe Hall motioned to cap sick, personal and bereavement days at 10 days and can only be accrued to 20 days for new hires. Also, those acquired days can no longer be “cashed out” and used toward pension enhancements.

The motion was second by council member Brent Ashley and passed in a vote of 4-3, with Cymek, Knight, and Martin in opposition.

Other current benefits for town employees include 12 holidays off, and two to five weeks of paid vacation is accumulated based on years of service.

Pillas motioned to eliminate the fifth week of vacation and to change the holiday schedule to reflect only 11 holidays for new and current employees. Also, throwing in for good measure to discontinue dependent life benefits.

The motion was seconded by Joe Hall and passed in a vote of 4-3, continuing the trend of Cymek, Knight, and Martin in opposition.

Joe Hall also motioned to have one week of vacation pay be applied after the one-year anniversary of a new hire. Also, he suggested after employees’ five-year anniversary, they will receive their second week vacation pay, and at their 10-year anniversary they will receive their third week of vacation pay, which would max out at three weeks.

The motion was seconded by Pillas and once again passed in a vote of 4-3, with Cymek, Knight, and Martin in opposition.

Joe Hall made one of the final motions – to eliminate tuition reimbursement. If the employee is in need of additional “training”, then the Mayor and City Council will discuss that opportunity during budget time.

This motion caused some discussion in diverse opinion from the staff.

“I think this has been seen in departments across the city where employees have helped their employer to benefit by doing this [education] on their own time,” Finance Administrator Martha Bennett Lucey said. “It is an incentive for them to do that, regardless of the course of study they take, and it multiplies and multiplies for you as an employer.”

City Manager Dennis Dare pointed out that the council’s own financial officer, Lucy, and city clerk, Kathy Mathias, are both examples of staff who have continued their education through the town’s tuition reimbursement plan.

The current policy on tuition reimbursement is an employee is eligible after six months of employment with the town and the maximum an individual can receive is $1,500 a year.

Once a few heads stopped spinning at this notion, Dare responded that also the current policy concerning tuition reimbursement is up to $7,000 city wide, which is approved at budget time anyways. The motion was then withdrawn.