Town council raises salaries of 17 employees

Page News and Courier

LURAY, Jan. 14 — The town council voted unanimously to raise the salaries of 17 employees that they determined were not being paid a competitive salary. The total cost to the town's budget is $9,211.

"It's a slight increase to the current budget amount, but it does take care of the employees who were determined to be paid below a competitive salary," said Charlie Hoke, town manager.

The $9,211 is well below initial estimates that were presented to the town council at their December meeting by Springsted, a public sector advising firm. Representatives from Springsted looked at comparable positions in Luray to surrounding areas and came up with what they felt to be a minimum salary for all positions. They found that 13 town employees were not being paid that minimum salary.

Springsted proposed three options to fix these issues. The first brings the 13 employees to the minimum salary requirements and would cost the town $60,545. The second would move all town employees up to the minimum requirements or a 2 percent salary increase, whichever is greater, and would cost $88,645. The third option would see a 0.5 percent increase in salary for all employees for every year they have worked in their current position and would cost the town $154,901.

At the December meeting, the council decided to hold a special meeting on Jan. 5 to address the salary issues. After failing to reach a consensus, another special meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 14. At this meeting, Hoke brought forth the $9,211 option and the council adopted it.

"The Springsted estimates for how much this was going to cost were inflated," said Joey Sours, a town council member. "So, we had a bit of 'sticker shock' and as we dug in more and verified the numbers, the financial impact is lower than what we originally anticipated. We were able to mitigate our primary issue we were facing with a reasonable dollar figure."

Councilman Ron Vickers called the vote a prudent move, noting that Springsted was asking the council to spend money that they did not have.

"I think this option was good," Vickers said. "The hard part was coming up with a solution that would have minimal budget impact."

Keeping costs at a minimum for the citizens was at the forefront, as the council agreed that raising taxes for employee salaries was not a viable option.

"I want to commend Charlie for his work on this, and the council as well," Sours said. "We took a good long look at it and kept the citizens at the forefront of this issue."

Keeping salaries competitive is an issue the council wants to continue to address. As they begin discussing the 2016-2017 budget in the coming months, salaries will be on the agenda.

"We couldn't go through with taking care of everybody at this time, so we'll address this in the next budget cycle," Hoke said.

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