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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Report: Pay Step Program Needed for Somerville's Non-Union Employees!

Created by the the Umass Boston Center for Public Management and recommended by the Municipal Compensation Advisory Board, a report was presented to members of the Board of Aldermen detailing a new pay step system that could result in significant pay raises for some Non-Union employees. The meeting was hosted by the Legislative Matters Committee and took place on Monday night at City Hall.

Admitting that Somerville is great at training, but not retaining, the report points out that the city is considerably behind other communities when it comes to compensating their employees. A pay step system, insists the Municipal Compensation Advisory Board, would pay listed employees at market rate and assist the city in keeping their talent. 

The Center for Public Management reviewed job descriptions and, most importantly, job behaviors for some employees and compared them to equivalent positions in other communities before creating their report. 

Currently, Somerville has a 27% turnover rate for employees. Resigning workers have gone on to higher-ranking positions in other communities, making more money based on the training and experience they received while employed in Somerville. Cities researched included Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, and Newton. At first glance, these towns may seem as though they have more resources to pay their employees higher than a community like Somerville, however, these were included as they are Somerville's competition when it comes to attracting talent. It is some of these communities that Somerville employees have left the city for.

One of the major components of the pay step system is a performance evaluation program that carefully guides employees with goals and expectations that, if achieved, could result in up to 3% pay increases. Whether merit raises are issued during the budget year will be at the discretion of the Mayor. Implementing the system will also allow employees to see what the next salary steps are.

The system itself features grades and numbered steps that, if approved, would place employees based on their current pay, years of service, and years in their current position. The report also recommends including 1/2 steps that would allow slight pay increases for employees who are exceeding at their job, but aren't quite delivering for a full step increase.

If the plan is implemented, some employees could see pay increases upwards of 18%. These increases would put these employees on the same playing field of comparables doing similar job functions in other communities according to the report.

Despite the informative presentation, requests were made by attending members of the Board of Aldermen to assist them in make their decision. Including more cities and towns in their research of how Somerville compares, financially (by specific job titles), as well as, what cities and towns were excluded from the report was made by Alderman At Large Bill White. He went on to request a chart showing turnovers by department and where the employees went (if this information was offered at the exit interview). Chairperson/Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz would like to see the operating budgets of included communities, as well as, the number of Union and Non-Union employees in those communities.

Before the adjournment, Chairperson Gewirtz informed the board that they would reconvene in a couple of weeks to review the requested information and possibly pass it back for a full Board of Aldermen approval. Once before the board, they would be faced with amending ordinances 2-322 and 2-323 pursuant to Municipal Compensation Advisory Board recommendations and to appropriate the salary increases for full-time Non-Union employees retroactive 7/1/2012.

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