Changes in Employee Compensation Philosophy
Makes Town Less Competitive with Neighboring Cities;
Service Levels Likely to Fall
The City Council’s adoption of the employee compensation non-philosophy on July 8, 2014, is a guaranteed lose/lose both for Town employees and residents. For those residents who cherish the “Addison Way” philosophy, it will quickly fall by the wayside – in favor of that espoused by the mayor & his new majority. The results are not hard to predict, as we are already seeing the damage: the experienced & more competent employees are diminishing in numbers, and those remaining are overworked and underpaid, thereby destroying one of the foundations that created the Town we all love and cherish.
How can that be, you ask? A fair question.
According to the Town’s newsletter issued July 11, 2014, the Council has spent 12 hours discussing the employee compensation policy, including hearing from an independent compensation consultant hired by the Town to study the issue. In declining to adopt this expert’s recommendations for fixing problems in the Town’s compensation policy, the Council ignored his very significant findings:
- Many of the Town’s competitor employers (other cities) have adopted pay philosophies such as being in the “top 3rd” or 50th percentile” or at least at the “market average.”
- Addison’s adopted pay ranges for some jobs fall more than 5% below market average.
- Addison does not currently move employee salaries within the adopted pay ranges at a pace that matches market average.
- Addison is not currently able to recruit and retain talented staff for some positions.
Pay Raises Don’t Tell the Whole Story
You might be saying: “But the Mayor tells us employees got a 14% raise during the last two years.” But that tells only part of the story, and the rest is that THE PROBLEM IS NOT YET FIXED! Think about how undercompensated Addison’s staff has been, when allocating almost $900,000 for two straight years doesn’t fix the problem. Remember as well, that Addison is playing “catch up” with benchmark towns and cities who continue to provide better compensation to their employees. So each year as Addison tries to catch up, the target continues to move away.
So the next time you hear the Mayor talk about what has happened in the past, bring him into the present and tell him that the past doesn’t matter because Addison is still compensating its employees at rates that are significantly below the market average. The truth is that it will take a commitment of several years to adjust ranges and to move individuals forward for Addison to return to being competitive with its benchmark towns and cities.
Police and Fire Services Could Suffer
When something bad happens – a car accident, fire or medical crisis – you want a well-trained, experienced emergency responder. And, Addison is blessed to have such personnel. That was demonstrated recently on local television with the story of an Addison firefighter who revived a dog during a fire. But, they can take their skills and experience to neighboring cities where the pay scale is greater.
The Mayor is vehemently opposed to the “step plan”, adopted by all but one neighboring city (which has a structured philosophy similar to the one voted down on July 8) which assures police and fire personnel that they can expect regular salary increases for satisfactory performance within the city’s adopted salary ranges. This keeps experienced personnel earning more than “newbies.” But in Addison, some new fire fighters are earning more than well-seasoned veterans. And, that’s not fair.
We Train Them, Then They Leave For Higher Salaries
It takes about $80,000 to train a police officer or fire fighter. The Town invests that money with the expectation that it will receive the benefit of that training over a number of years. But, when salaries are not competitive with nearby cities, new officers and firefighters leave for better salaries. That leaves a lot of rookies, fewer experienced personnel and not much in between. The compensation consultant used Addison Police Department statistics to show what happens:
Experience Level Number of Employees
0-3 years 17
3-5 years 2
5-7 years 1
7-10 years 9
10-15 years 6
15+ years 9
Firefighter statistics are similar and indicate that firefighter salaries are 10% behind for drivers, lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs. Here are the numbers:
Experience Level Number of Employees
0-3 years 16
3-5 years 0
5-7 years 5
7-10 years 6
10-15 years 4
15+ years 2
So what is the Town going to do when the 15+ year officers retire after 20 years and there are few officers to move up? Personnel from other cities who might be seeking a promotion will take one look at the Town’s policies and say “no thanks” to a job opening. That leaves Addison in a difficult position.
Councilmember Blake Clemens assured his colleagues that Addison employees were happy with their salaries. Surely, he can’t be that naïve. But then, how fair is it to judge such matters based on interactions between Council and staff? After all, what employee who wants to keep his job will complain to a Councilmember about low salaries?
Newspaper reports the last few weeks have talked about rising property values and increasing sales tax revenue. Our current tax rate is sufficient to operate the Town AND give employees badly needed raises. In addition, Addison has significant reserves that can be used for this one-time adjustment.
Over the years, Addison residents have been willing to pay for the exemplary level of service Town employees provide and residents enjoy. Few want to give up twice weekly garbage pickup, vacation home checks by police, pothole free streets or annual fire inspections. It’s that level of service that sets Addison apart from our suburban neighbors. Addison unquestionably has the budgetary ability to reward its loyal employees with a FAIR compensation plan, and yet this Mayor consistently advocates for a different result.
The next time you see them, tell your Council members you support fair compensation for employees, and that you want to ensure that Addison will maintain its reputation as the best place to live and work in North Texas.