New pay scale to cut politics’ from city raises

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2002

[07/16/02]Vicksburg officials say that a new pay scale will remove politics from how workers are compensated and motivate city employees to do a better job.

The plan was presented Monday to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen after months of comparing pay in Vicksburg with other cities from the region.

Lamar Horton, head of the city’s human resource department, said the scale is tailored to private-sector pay.

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“It’s an attempt to make sure that we are paying fair wages and over a period of time will attract higher-skilled employees,” Horton said.

The system, approved unanimously, sets 12 grades for employees with minimums and maximums for each. Raises will be based on annual evaluations.

The scale for city employees generally follows adoption of compensation plans for police and fire department personnel, who account for about 200 of the city’s 496 full-time employees.

Mayor Laurence Leyens, in office for a year, said the new scale will remove subjectivity from the process.

“We wanted to empower every employee with a rationale as to why they are getting paid what they are getting paid,” Leyens said.

Under previous policy, salaries were recommended by supervisors and set by the mayor and aldermen. Employees were given longevity raises and in most years the board would give cost-of-living increases to all employees.

A criticism was that city workers were paid based on who were their friends instead of their work. Leyens has said he wants city workers paid well, but held accountable.

“What we’re going to eliminate is a worker sitting in the back of a truck taking a nap in an ally,” Leyens said. “People who work are going to get paid and people who don’t are going to get fired.”

Pay ranges for city employees will begin at $13,500 and go up to $80,000. As part of adopting the plan, the city board voted to give raises to 13 employees who were below the minimums set for their job descriptions on the new scale. Total cost for those raises was about $12,000 annually.

“The bottom line is this is the right thing to do,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Salary ranges are based on the pay in cities of similar size in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. Job descriptions were also written for every city position, Horton said.

The city board can still make exceptions to the pay scale such as the salary for Strategic Planner Paul Rogers. Rogers is the highest paid city employee at $98,500 a year, about $18,500 over the maximum on the new scale.

The scale does not affect the pay of the mayor or the two aldermen whose compensation is set by ordinance.