Originally created 05/07/02

City pay plan favors top ranks



A governmentwide salary study that tries to make city compensation packages more competitive with jobs in the private sector would give hefty raises to some high-ranking employees.

The proposal is set to go before Augusta commissioners for approval today. But some of the recommended pay increases - particularly several large ones to city department directors - are expected to raise the ire of commission members.

Some of the more interesting recommendations commissioners will review include:

  • A proposed $8,169 pay raise for the city's deputy administrator of four months, Fred Russell
  • A job change and pay raise for Deputy Administrator Walter Hornsby that would increase his salary 26 percent and move him into the city's Equal Employment Opportunity officer position
  • A 50 percent pay increase for Chris Naylor, the director of the city's Downtown Development Authority, and a 47 percent boost for Riverwalk Events Coordinator Rommie Thompson
  • An $18,864 raise - 66 percent - for the mayor's assistant, Mark Gibbons, and a new title of executive assistant.
  • Five years ago, the city paid an outside consultant $90,000 to recommend salary changes, but the most recent reclassification is the result of an in-house study. Officials say they avoided using a consulting firm to save money.

    "That's the benefit of having personnel people that are good - you can do it internally," said Mr. Russell, the newly hired deputy administrator, who also directed the reclassification process. "Consultants make a lot of money doing this thing."

    Mr. Russell has conducted only one other salary study in his career, and it was during the 1970s for a sheriff's department.

    Although final approval for the reclassification came from City Administrator George Kolb, research and initial approval went through Mr. Russell and Human Resources Director Brenda Byrd-Pelaez.

    Ms. Byrd-Pelaez would also get a raise under the salary proposal.

    She has worked for the city for five years and would see an increase of 13 percent, or $8,407, to receive a new salary of $71,237. Mr. Russell's proposed salary is $87,460; he began work for the city in January at a salary of $79,291.

    Mr. Russell said he approved Ms. Byrd-Pelaez's raise, and Mr. Kolb said he approved Mr. Russell's raise.

    "The mission of this whole study was to bring positions up to the market," Mr. Kolb said. "It wasn't a matter of bringing Fred up. That's just what a deputy administrator should be making."

    The largest single pay increase in city government would go to Mayor Bob Young's administrative assistant. Mr. Gibbons would be given a new title - executive assistant - which he says is more reflective of his duties.

    "I represent (the mayor) on boards ... I work with the media, I deal with dignitaries," Mr. Gibbons said. "I wouldn't say it should be called a deputy (mayor), but some of the responsibilities are up there."

    In addition to individual reclassifications, the human resources department also revamped the city's entire salary schedule, a change that affects all 2,600 full-time government employees.

    But by and large, top-ranking city executives, not lower-level workers, would receive the biggest pay increases.

    The largest executive raise - a 49 percent increase - would go to the city's Downtown Development Authority/Main Street Augusta executive director; the second-largest increase is slated to go to the Riverwalk Augusta coordinator.

    Both positions, according to job descriptions on file with the city's human resources department, deal largely with public relations, event planning and marketing.

    Both positions would be increased to a salaries of $52,366, only about $500 less than the proposed salary for the city's Emergency Management Agency director, Dave Dlugo-lenski.

    Under the proposal, Mr. Dlugolenski would get a 16 percent raise to bring him up to $52,889, $7,255 more than he makes now. His salary would be in the same pay grade as the two downtown promotions positions.

    According to job descriptions on file with the city's human resources department, the "physical demands" of Mr. Dlugolenski's job include working in "extremely hazardous environments." The job description warns that he "may be exposed to high noise levels ... machinery, contagious diseases, irritating chemicals, and cold or inclement weather."

    The physical demands of the Riverwalk Augusta and Downtown Development Authority jobs consist of sitting, standing, stooping, walking and "occasional lifting of light objects."

    "You evaluate the level of responsibility for what I do, and I feel that what I do will determine how many people live or die," Mr. Dlugolenski said.

    The new city salaries were determined, in part, by a survey of how similar employees are paid in 37 other governments throughout the nation.

    But many of those cities surveyed have significantly higher costs of living than Augusta, including two Virginia suburbs of Washington: Fairfax and Alexandria. According to an Internet cost-of-living calculator, someone making $50,000 a year in Augusta would have to make more than $97,000 to maintain the same standard of living in Alexandria and more than $100,000 to live in Fairfax.

    In addition to individual reclassifications, revisions to the city's pay-scale chart would provide increased pay and broader salary ranges for almost every city employee. Officials say it will make it easier for them to recruit and retain highly skilled employees, including computer technicians and engineers.

    "We wanted a salary schedule that would meet the market we are drawing them from," Mr. Kolb said. "From a market standpoint, we tried to come up with a good fit."

    BIGGEST RAISES

    Augusta commissioners are scheduled to review and possibly vote today on a proposed salary reclassification. Under the proposal, some of the biggest pay increases would go to city directors and assistant directors.

    Those executives that would see the biggest increases are:

    1. Chris Naylor, Downtown Development Authority/Main Street Augusta director; current: $35,214, proposed: $52,889; increase: 50 percent

    2. Rommie Thompson, Riverwalk Augusta coordinator; current: 35,524; proposed: 52,366; increase: 47 percent

    3. Deputy Administrator Walter Hornsby, moved to Equal Employment Opportunity officer; current: $64,092; proposed: $80,906; increase: 26 percent

    4. Tom Beck, director of parks and recreation; current: $53,456; proposed: $66,219; increase: 24 percent

    5. Heyward Johnson, transit director; current: $58,160; proposed, $71,237; increase: 22 percent

    6. Tammy Strange, assistant finance director; current: $59,225; proposed: $71,237; increase: 20 percent

    7. Rob Sherman, director of license and inspection; current: $60,933; proposed: $71,237; increase: 17 percent

    8. Donna Williams, assistant finance director; current: $63,180; proposed: 73,374; increase: 16 percent

    9. Dave Dlugolenski, Emergency Management Agency director; current: $45,634; proposed: $52,889; increase: 16 percent

    10. Brenda Byrd-Pelaez, human resources director; current: $62,830; proposed: $71,237; increase: 13 percent

    Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.