Work Session Set For Berlin Pay Discussion

BERLIN – Municipal officials are expected to discuss a step and grade system for town staff next month.

On Dec. 11, the town will host a work session so officials can discuss plans to implement a step and grade system.

“I’m all for a work session,” Councilman Jack Orris said. “I think it’s deserving of its own time.”

In early 2023, the town hired PaypointHR to conduct a pay study. The study, which looked at things like demographics, cost of living and pay rates in similar jurisdictions, found that overall municipal employees were paid 8.5% below market.

In an effort to correct that, the town council agreed to increase salaries that were identified as low to 35% of the market rate. Elected officials at the time also committee to establishing a step and grade system for all positions.

Kelsey Jensen, the town’s human resources director, told the council last week that she was recommending a work session be scheduled to discuss the proposed step and grade system. According to Jensen, PaypointHR staff advised when the pay study was being conducted that setting up a  step and grade system would be the hardest part of the process. She said the company proposed a system of 16 grades with 21 steps.

“When we were looking at that the mayor indicated he wanted to see more grades just to be able to space out positions a little bit more,” Jensen said.

As a result, she proposed a system of 25 grades with 21 steps. She said the one she proposed had 5% between grades and 2.5% between steps. The one PaypointHR proposed had 7.5% between grades and 2.5% between steps.

“I’ve heard from several of you at different times with different recommendations,” Jensen said. “I thought maybe the easiest thing is to just get us all to talk about it at a designated time.”

Orris said he liked the idea of a work session. Councilman Steve Green agreed.

“The creation of a step and grade system merits the time,” he said. “In my mind, when the step and grade system is in place administration is dealing with that and we’re dealing with COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments),” he said.

Green added, however, that he felt the town would struggle to fully implement every improvement identified in the study.

Councilman Dean Burrell said that officials needed to remain committed either way.

“I think as a town and being committed to our employees for the service they provide to our residents we need to be that absolute,” he said.

The council is expected to discuss the step and grade system at a work session on Dec. 11.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.