City eyes $450,000 payroll hike

Raises won't become official until budget is approved later this summer. Overall, payroll will increase about 8.6% in 2021.

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June 9, 2020 - 10:02 AM

As Iola officials put together the city’s 2021 budget, they’ll do so with the intention of pumping an additional $450,000 into the city’s payroll.

City Council members embraced the higher pay levels after poring over the results Monday of a recently completed citywide wage study.

The raises wouldn’t become official until the budget is approved later this summer, and would take effect starting in January.

Based on estimates given to the Council, payroll figures would rise a combined 8.6% in 2021.

The study was presented by Human Resources manager Carla Brown, and was ordered by the Council after they boosted payroll in November for Electric Distribution employees in response to a separate wage review for that department.

Both studies noted some Iola employees were or are paid substantially less than comparable workers in other municipalities.

Department heads also were tasked with evaluating their departments and positions.

“The question is what are other cities paying,” Mayor Jon Wells said, “and not only how do we retain, but how do we attract new talent?”

Some departments have dealt with significant turnover in recent months and years, he noted, because Iola’s pay is lower than others. “The Police Department has been out of line for years and years. And in today’s environment, it’s been getting harder to recruit.”

“I support the effort to include these recommendations with our budget discussions,” Councilman Carl Slaugh said.

Gene Myrick wondered why some employees were in line for raises, while others were not.

That’s because some employees already are compensated at a commensurate amount with Iola’s peer cities, Interim City Administrator Corey Schinstock replied.

“The purpose of the wage study wasn’t to ensure each position had an increase,” Brown said. “It was to provide information if we’re paying the positions properly.”

“One position’s not more important than another,” Schinstock said, when determining who should be paid more. “To me, the job’s worth X. We should be paying our employees appropriately. We shouldn’t be singling out a single department.”

Schinstock called the wage study, a “check and balance to keep us in place. We’re obviously not keeping up.’

Brown’s cost estimate breakdown:

— Electric generation workers would see a 9.6% pay hike to a combined $348,614.

— Water production employees’ pay would rise 10.5% to total $235,181.

— Gas, water and wastewater pay would increase 6.5% to $604,339.

— Solid waste handlers would see combined 10.9% raises to a combined $120,412.

— Street and Alley Department’s pay would go up 7.9% to $418,793.

— Purchasing salaries would rise 11.9% to $108,220.

— Parks and cemetery workers would see a combined $77,293 raise, or 28.7%.

— Recreation Department payrolls would rise 5.2% to a combined $167,937.

— The Police Department’s compensation would rise 10.1% to $901,646.

— Fire/EMS workers would see a 4.6% raise, to a combined $1.521 million.

— Code enforcement salaries would rise 9.9% to $129,072.

— Municipal Court workers would earn a combined $84,347, or 12.1% more.

— The clerk and utilities office would see 8.3% raises, to a total $339,588.

— Administration salaries would rise 6.4% to a combined $258,261.

“My recommendation is to not try to do this immediately,” Schinstock said. “Let’s do this through the budget process.”

Brown also noted her salary estimates include a 1% cost of living adjustment. The COLA raises typically are tied to the Consumer Price Index and are determined late in the fall.

Next comes the task of funding the raises as part of what Council members have said will be a lean budget for 2021.

Schinstock noted a portion of the raises could be funded next year with leftover funds in the city’s insurance pool. Iola no longer is self-insured, but has some unused funding in the city’s insurance pool. 

The city’s enterprise funds, for things such as electricity and gas sales, could be utilized for those respective departments as well.

Plus, administrators will be tasked with finding other parts of the budget to cut in each department in order to make the pay raises more palatable.

The budget will be the focal point of discussion at the Council’s June 22 meeting, Schinstock noted, with each department head spelling out his respective spending plan and priorities for next year.

COUNCIL members agreed to extend for one year its pact with Iola Rotary to retrieve cardboard from recycling bins at Orscheln Farm & Home, Pump N Pete’s at 1700 East St., and soon near Sonic-Drive In on West Madison Avenue.

The dumpsters are so large that the city only has one truck — a backup vehicle — large enough and equipped to unload the bins safely.

Street and Alley Superintendent Dan Leslie said the task takes about an hour to 90 minutes each week, which could prove problematic as his crews struggle to catch up with their summer projects.

According to worksheets provided to the Council, the city has spent about $1,400 so far in 2020, since the project began, to assist with the cardboard retrieval.

Dan Davis and Steve Strickler, representing Rotary, noted their volunteers work several hours a week retrieving and breaking down cardboard boxes from scores of local businesses to take to the dumpsters.

From there, the cardboard is taken to a Rotary outpost at Endurance Artificial Lift Systems on North State Street.

The city’s intention is to continue doing the weekly pickups — likely on Friday afternoons — unless Street and Alley Crews are obligated to other jobs.

“We may have to skip a week to keep on schedule” with road projects, Councilman Gene Myrick said.

COUNCIL members approved the purchase of a pair of 2021 Ford Police Interceptor utility vehicles from Twin Motors Ford, for a combined $69,400. The price is $5,138 more than a comparable bid from Shawnee Mission Ford, but Council members said they favored supporting a local business.

The vote to approve the purchase was 4-2, with Slaugh and Kim Peterson opposed. Absent from Monday’s meeting were Ron Ballard and Steve French.

The Council also was split, but still accepted an offer from Tom Carlson to buy a small parcel of land from the city for $1,000. Carlson had previously offered $1,000 for the land at 4 Chambers Dr., but that was rejected by the Council, who returned with a counter offer of $2,500. Carlson rejected the higher price, prompting the Council to return with Carlson’s original offer. Slaugh and Nickolas Kinder cast the dissenting votes.

MONDAY’S meeting took on a surreal atmosphere shortly after it started because of a nearby traffic accident, in which a passing motorist struck a utility pole not far from the New Community Building at Riverside Park, cutting power to the building for 45 minutes.

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