Several top managers at San Luis Obispo City Hall and more than 100 other employees will receive raises ranging from 2.7 percent to 15.7 percent this month.
In addition, they — along with about 114 other city employees — will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase this year and the same increase next year, the City Council unanimously decided Tuesday.
The raises, which the council made to bring salaries in line with comparable cities in California and retain staff, include a 10 percent raise for the fire chief, a 13 percent raise for the vacant police chief position and a 15.7 percent raise for the transportation operations manager.
The cost-of-living increase is retroactive to January. The raises kick in this month except for 11 jobs in the utilities department that will receive half their raise this July and the rest July 2016.
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Fire Chief Garret Olson’s salary of $154,544 will increase by $18,545 this year (10 percent raise plus 2 percent of cost-of-living). Next year, he’ll get a second 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, bringing his total salary then to $176,180.
The police chief position, vacant since Steve Gesell left in May, has a salary range of $128,310 to $160,394 annually and will jump by 10 percent plus the 2 percent adjustments each year.
Transportation Operations Manager Jake Hudson will receive the largest raise of 15.7 percent, increasing his $93,288 annual salary to about $107,281. Hudson doesn’t qualify for the 2 percent cost of living increase because he already makes more than the salary range for his job.
Five other positions will receive a 10.2 percent or 10.3 percent salary increase: budget manager (currently vacant), laboratory manager, transit manager, building and safety supervisor, and geographic information services supervisor.
In recommending the raises, the city said it looked at pay of 26 positions at a dozen public agencies in Clovis, Davis, Monterey, Napa, Paso Robles, Petaluma, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, Santa Monica, Ventura and the county of San Luis Obispo.
Only two residents, Steve Barasch and Leslie Halls, objected to the raises Tuesday.
Halls noted that the pay increases also raise the long-term retirement cost to the city.
“I don’t think anyone at city hall is underpaid,” Halls said. “If people are leaving, it’s not because they’re not making enough money.”
City officials said the turnover rate has increased as employees find other jobs and cite higher pay or lower cost of living as reasons for leaving. Turnover was 10 percent in 2012, 19 percent in 2012 and 32 percent in 2014.
Barasch suggested the city include more data on comparable private sector salaries.
Monica Irons, the city’s human resources director, said some limited private sector data was collected with the benchmark study.
Councilman Dan Carpenter said he hopes city staff can get more information on the private sector labor market in the future.
“I think many in the private sector have accepted under-compensation as a cost of living in this area, and I think we should be sensitive to that in our public sector negotiations and at least make that connection to the local labor market,” he said.
Carpenter also said he hoped that future agreements would not make pay increases retroactive, because that doesn’t give any incentive for negotiations to proceed more quickly.
Mayor Jan Marx said the local labor market includes numerous public sector employees: Caltrans, California Men’s Colony and Atascadero State Hospital, for example.
“The private sector is an important element to a compensation study, but if you’re talking about the local labor market, you have to look at public employees as well as the local private sector,” she said.
City officials said the turnover rate has increased as employees find other jobs and cite higher pay or lower cost of living as reasons for leaving. In 2012, the turnover rate was 10 percent; it jumped to 19 percent in 2012 and to 32 percent in 2014.
Tuesday’s raises cover 151 nonpublic safety employees represented by the San Luis Obispo City Employees Association, as well as 79 unrepresented management employees and three unrepresented confidential positions: a paralegal, human resources administrative assistant and human resources specialist.
The raises don’t cover police and fire unions.
The cost-of-living increases were the first in four years for SLOCEA employees and the first in six years for management employees, Irons said.
Employee pay was cut by 6.8 percent for SLOCEA members and unrepresented staff in 2012, when employees agreed to share cost increases in health insurance premiums and to pay their full 8 percent member contribution to their CalPERS retirement plan.
The three agreements will result in an immediate cost of $220,000 for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The city has budgeted for the cost — the pay increases are included in the city’s 2015-17 Financial Plan and were calculated into the city’s five-year fiscal forecast, according to a city staff report.