City officials looking for money for worker raises

City officials looking for money for worker raises

Budget time in West Memphis

City Council representatives flooded the October West Memphis Budget Commission meeting for information about raises for city employees. The ward representatives met the consultant hired to deliver a city government wage comparison based on municipal league data. Rhonda Davis did the compensation analysis for the city Utility Department and indicted the final report covering the rest of city workers would be ready for the November budget meeting. The group heard the final result for the Utility, along with hopes from the fire department and accepted a wage increase proposal forwarded by the Public Facilities Board for the project manager in the Economic Development office.

Economic Development Executive Director Philip Sorrell presented the raise proposal and gave reason why the raise was suggested outside the city plan. He said the project planning position in West Memphis was unique and there were no direct comparisons in the municipal league wage report. The position changed from hourly work paid on the clock to a salaried position.

“The position changes from non-exempt to exempt (from overtime pay),” said Sorrell, “because additional duties and responsibilities are being added to the job description.”

Not only is the position unique, but the funds for the salary come from the Public Facilities coffers rather than the general fund. The spot on the organization chart changed from executive assistant to project manager.

“The funds to cover it, came with the recommendation by the Public Facilities Board,” said Sorrell.

“That board already supplements my salary with $20,000 and the executive assistant by $10,000. They voted September 11 to change the supplement to the project manager for $18,000.”

Bottom line impact was a $14,000 pay increase in the Economic Development department for the new position with the remainder of the Facility Board supplement allotted to benefits portion of the compensation.

The increased duties and commensurate pay would move Project Manager Mallory Darby from $43,000 per year to $57,250.

“It’s commensurate with duties and responsibilities as a marketing executive,” said Sorrell.

The new position under Sorrell represented a change in organization from his predecessor as Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish.

The new managers slot saved on expenses hiring consultants.

“He outsourced to consultants,” said Sorrell, “but with Mallory’s experience and expertise, we are able to keep a lot more of our marketing work in house, producing materials and maintaining our site data base. There is no cost to the city because it is coming from the facilities board.”

The board authorized the raise in September and Sorrell asked the Budget Commission to make the increase effective immediately.

“The Facilities Board approved it and obligated it for this year,” said Sorrell.

“It will be reimbursed to the city as it always is. It is net neutral as far as the city is concerned.”

City treasurer Frank martin underscored the need to shift the position to salary.

“The state audit asked us to address differences in exempt and non-exempt,” said Martin. “We had some gray areas. With her duties and background there is no question that this is an exempt position.”

The budget commission passed the measure onto the full city council for final consideration.

By John Rech