Study Suggests Employee Raises In Salisbury

SALISBURY — A recently completed employee pay study for Salisbury has found that employees are about 14-percent below market averages and that current policy is “no longer competitive with its overall [pay] ranges and structures.”
The agency that conducted the study, Evergreen Solutions, LLC, recommended a three-step, nearly $750,000 approach to bring the city pay structure back to a competitive place in the market.
Looking at 381 employees across 10 departments, Salisbury is lagging slightly behind the market, said Brian Wolfe, manager of Evergreen. “You’ve got 80 percent of your employees who are below their pay grade mid-point which points to some issue, perhaps, with funding of the STEPs.”
Evergreen compared Salisbury to locations across the Eastern Shore, including Ocean City, Snow Hill, Annapolis and Cambridge in Maryland and Seaford, Dover and Georgetown in Delaware among many others. There were 49 positions in the city that were used as benchmarks and were found to be an average of 14-percent below the market range at mid-point.
“While a couple classifications fall in the d above market range, most positions fall below their respective market ranges,” read the pay study.
Besides other municipalities, the study also looked at the private sector, which averaged higher salaries than Salisbury but weaker benefits.
“The private sector is typically going to outpace the public in regards to salary compensation and the public sector will typically outpace the private with regards to benefits,” said Wolfe.
After reviewing the results, Evergreen has recommended raising the value of the city’s pay plan by 8.5 percent.
“By raising the value of the pay plan by 8.5 percent, we can catch you up to within about 5 percent of the market at the average mid-point position and put you in a generally more favorable position,” Wolfe said.
That would be implemented in three stages. The first stage would cost approximately $299,396 and serve to catch 129 employees up to the proposed minimum of their range. Stage two would cost around $122,404 and would assign employees a STEP based on their current salary. The final stage would cost about $326,668 and affect 151 employees and would seek to bring pay rates closer in line with market observations by assigning some groups extra STEPs.
While Salisbury’s pay rates are a bit lower than market, Wolfe did think it was worth pointing out that the city has a higher employee retention rate than the national average.
“The average tenure within the city, at the time the study began, was a little over 10 years, which is noteworthy,” he said. “I would say average tenure in a public sector entity across the country is probably closer to seven or seven and a half years. So you’ve got a group of people here who are, for whatever reason, more prone to keep their jobs.”
Councilwoman Terry Cohen asked Wolfe if there were any major changes the city might want to look at not just with pay rates but with basic structure. Wolfe replied that the council might want to consider moving away from the current STEP increase-based system for something more flexible. However, he added that the STEP system is good for employee morale, so Evergreen is not recommending it be abandoned. It’s just something to weigh, Wolfe said.
The council is expected to review the study further and address it at future meetings.