Study: Augusta salaries often below peer cities

A new analysis of Augusta employee salaries reveals salary benchmarks – used to determine a worker’s pay – are below market rates for two-thirds of the workforce. It is particularly true at the low end, where a starting salary is $17,000.

 

The $100,000 analysis by the Archer Company is the first of its size the city has done in some 18 years, and won’t be an inexpensive fix, officials said Tuesday.

The analysis compared Augusta salaries with those in neighboring markets such as Aiken and Columbia counties, with regional peer cities such as Athens-Clarke and Macon-Bibb and with cities in larger markets including Greenville, S.C., and Henry County, Ga., said presenter Chip King, a consultant with Archer.

It looked at employees of elected officials, such as Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree, who has requested pay increases for his staff, but did not examine the salaries of elected officials themselves, or employee perks or benefits, King said.

Addressing the discrepancies will cost at least $3.9 million to bring all workers up to the minimum end of market salary ranges, and as much as $8.5 million to move all staffers into salaries appropriate to their tenure and classification, he said.

The shortages show themselves at the low end, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said. “It appears that we have a hard time holding on to new employees,” she said.

But denying higher-ranking workers market salaries can “change the direction” of a government when talent leaves, King said.

Jackson said she wants the commission to approve the revised pay and classification plan when it passes the 2018 budget, but not necessarily fund all of it.

In another matter Tuesday, Commissioner Sammie Sias withdrew his ongoing request to cap city funding for nonprofits at $25,000 with the exception of three entities – Augusta Museum of History, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Greater Augusta Arts Council – but said he was “not finished with it.” The move leaves funding for nonprofit groups potentially intact as city budget talks continue.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy continued his push to rename John C. Calhoun Expressway as Veterans Expressway, citing efforts by leadership in North Augusta and Savannah to address public concerns about facilities dedicated to slavery and segregation.

Savannah sent a resolution to the Georgia legislature requesting to rename the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, and Augusta could do something similar, Fennoy said.

“It doesn’t look good when people come to your city and see you recognizing and honoring a racist,” he said.

Mayor Hardie Davis, who declined to comment or said public interest was lacking during earlier efforts to rename Calhoun or relocate Augusta’s Confederate monument, said he’d sign a resolution if the commission approves one.

“It is my prayerful hope that this discussion does not fall on deaf ears,” Davis said.

In a roll call vote, however, the motion failed 4-3, with Sias abstaining and commissioners Grady Smith and Marion Williams absent. Fennoy and commissioners Dennis Wiliams and Ben Hasan voted yes while commissioners Sean Frantom, Andrew Jefferson, Wayne Guilfoyle and Mary Davis voted no.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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