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City salaries might crack $1M
by Rick DeClue · News · January 17, 2014


During preliminary budget talks Jan. 6, West Branch City Administrator Matt Muckler recommended salary increases for city personnel ranging from 3 to 10 percent, or about $103,000.
Including one new full-time library position and an estimated 6-percent increase for medical insurance, total city salaries and benefits would grow by 11.44 percent next year.

Currently the city budgets about $898,000 for salaries and benefits; if the city council accepts the recommendation, that would increase to just over $1 million.

The varying recommendations reflect cost-of-living increases, extra duties for several positions, a change in the library director’s job description and the final steps in bringing West Branch Police Department salaries in line with competing jurisdictions, Muckler said.

Referring to the spreadsheet of salary figures, Muckler said, “These are just recommendations. The council decides. The public informs those decisions.”

Changes start with a 3-percent, across-the-board increase to reflect a rise in the cost of living. The city has used various methods over the years, but the 2015 increase is based on the Consumer Price Index.

Mayor Mark Worrell said, “we took the CPI and rounded up.”

Prior cost-of-living increases were zero in 2011, 2.5 percent in 2012, 1.5 percent in 2013 and 1.9 percent last year.

Council member Mary Beth Stevenson asked whether the city could make an offer for more than one year. She said she has that at her job, and that it helps for families to plan.

Council member and newly appointed Mayor Pro Tem Colton Miller said he did not think this council could obligate future councils to such a pay structure. He was supported in this response by City Attorney Kevin Olson.

Seven employees are being recommended for 6-percent increases. These include the deputy city clerk and administrative assistant, who have taken on responsibilities for numerous meetings outside normal hours, Muckler said, and the parks and recreation director. Parks and rec continues to see solid program growth, Muckler said.

The city wants the library director to take control of the cable access station and information technology duties, so they offered to give him a 10-percent raise.

According to Library Director Nick Shimmin, this shift reflects technology changes going on in other city libraries.

The library will also add a full-time position, starting in July, to assume a portion of Shimmin’s day-to-day duties. This position will be largely paid for by cable franchise revenues instead of property taxes, Muckler said.

One public works department employee will also receive a 10-percent increase as he takes on additional responsibilities for zoning administration, sidewalk inspections and storm water pollution prevention inspections.

Muckler said certain above-average increases recommended this year will complete the city’s multi-year effort to bring police department and library staff salaries to competitive levels.

He said the city looks at several factors in determining its compensation plan, including past history and the Iowa League of Cities’ annual compensation survey. The latter provides guidance for cities of comparable size.

For example, a police officer’s salary in Tipton may differ from West Branch because Tipton does not have on-call requirements for police officers. Also, West Branch has more expensive housing than Tipton, plus a residency requirement.

Muckler said one objective is to remain competitive with salaries in order to attract and retain a quality city staff. He said he feels the city is in a good position in that respect, but that the council maintains the right to look at other resources for direction or changes to setting city salaries.

The city received information on health insurance costs for next year. Rates will increase 5.16 percent, with 4 percent of that including Affordable Care Act-related fees, though this is less than the 6 percent estimate presented to the council, Muckler said.

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