San Luis Obispo to study city employee salaries for possible changes

San Luis Obispo is embarking on a study that will be used as a tool to determine the future salary and benefits of its employees.

The study will use the city’s compensation philosophy — its framework for how to go about determining salaries — as it collects data to update actual pay ranges. The study could ultimately change the pay scale of some city jobs.

The City Council updated its compensation philosophy in 2011, changing it to focus on the local labor market, looking at both public and private sector jobs, for some city employee classifications.

In some higher-level city positions, the compensation philosophy also compares salaries and benefits for public employees in relevant labor markets, looking to cities with demographic similarities, structural similarities and other characteristics.

The new study will define which labor markets to use for future compensation decisions and collect data from those markets.

This is the first time since 2007 that the salary and compensation study has been updated. In the past, the study led to increased salaries for many of the city’s top management.

Monica Irons, human resources director, said that isn’t likely to happen this time.

“The difference between then and now was that in 2006-07 the city was having a hard time recruiting and retaining employees,” said Irons. “We are not having those problems today; probably because everyone has been in the same predicament with the economy.”

The City Council will use the data from the study, expected to be complete in July 2014, as a bargaining tool with its employee groups when their contracts expire. The data can also be used to make changes to individual job classifications.

In 2011, at the depth of the city’s budget woes, the council directed staff to negotiate a 6.8 percent cut in total compensation for all employees. Those contracts, some of which took nearly a year to settle, will start to expire at the end of next year.

The contract of the city’s largest employee union, the San Luis Obispo City Employees Association, expires Dec. 31, 2014, followed by the Police Staff Officers in June 2015 and fire and the remaining police employees in December 2015.