Urgent Letter from Addison Firefighters & Police Assoc. Membership

The Honorable Mayor and City Council of Addison, Texas,

It is with great disappointment and dissatisfaction that we write this letter today, as the Addison Firefighters Association and Addison Police Officers Association we cannot endorse the proposed budget for FY2014/2015. The budget does not contain the funds to correct the significant disparity that exists between Addison’s Public Safety Employees and those of nearby and comparable towns. It is our position that this situation must be remedied; else the already unreasonably high level of turnover will simply get worse.

There is a problem in the Town of Addison, a problem that has been presented to you as urgent, serious, and potentially dangerous for all of Addison and you simply choose to act as if it is not there.

Fire and Police are experiencing massive turnover, bleeding both departments of not only talented and experienced people, but of money in the form of testing, hiring, and training.  A total of 12 Public Safety personnel have left within the last 12 months, or approximately 12% of our public safety employee base.  This rate of employee turnover more than doubles what was cited as “normal turnover” during the compensation analysis completed this spring.  This costs the town approximately $80k per individual to train for independent duty responsibilities within their discipline, or a total of approximately $960,000 in this year alone.  We all accept that it is cheaper to keep employees than indentify, hire, and train new ones. The council must act to solve this problem!

It is our understanding that the City Manager, Ms. Lea Dunn, and Human Resources Director, Ms. Passion Hayes, have requested that the council define Addison’s compensation philosophy, i.e. a set of guidelines that will enable department heads, the City Manager, and Future Mayors/Councils to base compensations on how the Town values and rewards its employees.  It is also our understanding that the decision of the council was made to not adopt the proposed philosophy, but rather to amend the current philosophy, ignoring what proposal was recommended by the compensation consultant, who clearly stated, that both the current and now amended philosophy “lacked the clear direction and substantive definition, which he believed the town’s administration was asking for.”  We believe that when employees feel rewarded and valued, turnover will be kept to a minimum – Especially so if the rewards enacted are at least “Market Average” to that of our peers or neighbors.  It is our further understanding that when you the council chose not to accept the recommendations of the compensation consultant, you voluntarily recommended the guidance to city management which resulted in the current compensation budget proposal.  Was the City Manager encouraged to make this budget proposal?  Also, the council’s actions seem to indicate that by not agreeing on a substantive compensation philosophy or solution to the current compensation imbalance, you have told us, the public safety sector of the Town of Addison, that you don’t care to see us progress. You and your council colleagues continue to hail and espouse the “Addison Way” or the “Superior level of Services” we deliver to the residents and businesses, but you refuse to reward those that provide those services at such an exemplary level. Because of your actions, we are losing people, and will continue to lose valuable people with experience and knowledge that cannot be replaced.  History has shown organizations can experience great tragedy due to lack of experience; do we want to experience this? I think not!

Ms. Dunn’s proposal will not fix the compensation inequity problem – It’s not even close.  This must not come as a surprise to the council, especially in light of the compensation consultant’s proposal.  Even if a 3% merit raise is offered, it is not guaranteed that an employee will move 3%.  What does 3% even mean for an employee who is paid on average $10,000 less than another peer in a neighboring city? While you think that 3% is a “Fair and Sustainable” number, the current inflation rate in the US recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics through 7/22/2014 is 2.1%. So the “Fair” 3% is in fact a 0.9% raise.  How much of that possible proposed 3% raise is going to be chewed up by insurance increases this next year?  Are either of those “Fair”?  Are those numbers “Sustainable” for an employee or their family?  Do you take these factors into consideration when you tout fiscal conservativeness?  We ask you what is going to be left of the public safety departments in Addison when everyone leaves.  How will the residents feel then?  What are you truly obligating future councils to deal with?

This proposal also barely scratches the surface of what was proposed to just reach the minimum of market average.  The consultant’s proposal showed that public safety needed adjustments on average of 11% to both the top and the bottom of all ranks to achieve average.  The City Manager’s suggested 4% movement to only the bottom of all ranks will be interpreted by many employees as a step backwards.  At a minimum we should make the suggested movements outlined in the results of the compensation study to all ranks.  That will successfully move us up to the market average for competitive cities without continuing to fall further behind.  This “market average” only applies to this year’s study comparisons, and will be obsolete data next year, making it even more expensive to catch up next year.   This should be done at the bare minimum or we will fall further behind – As we have done in the past!  If it is not, and our requests are ignored, we will continue to have both retention and recruitment issues; which are extremely dangerous for both residents and employees.   Also, we learned that the staff at the new combined dispatch center will be compensated at the 75% percentile of comparative cities.  How was this commitment accomplished so effortlessly, but a simple philosophy to be at minimum market average was not?  How do you think that makes the rest of the public safety employees feel?

In closing, I strongly urge you to maintain your commitment, and promise, to correct the compensation issues we are currently experiencing within the Town.  Please understand that this issue addressed incorrectly has huge implications for both residents and employees. These unfortunate lessons have been learned by other municipalities in the past; we should learn from those and not experience them.  Please choose to “exercise the same latitude” the councils of the past two years had done.   Please choose to amend the current City Manager’s proposal to at minimum include the suggested range adjustments for the departments that are the hardest hit by retention and recruitment.  Please choose to do what’s right for the town and the people that dedicate their life and career to the organization.  And finally, please use the leadership of both organizations to help educate and inform any of your critics that oppose spending their valuable dollars to maintain a dedicated, talented and experienced public safety department; we would love to speak with them.

Respectfully Submitted,
Addison Firefighters and Police Association Membership
Local 3187 President
John Peskuski

Addison Police Association
President, Justin Pierce