Lawrence City Commission to consider pay increases for city employees

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

City of Lawrence leaders will soon consider a new pay plan that would provide more than $400,000 in pay raises for city employees beginning next year.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive a study of the city’s compensation plan that was conducted by McGrath Human Resources Group. The report indicates that a significant number of city employees are underpaid when compared to their peers in other cities. Commissioners will then consider authorizing an amendment to the city’s 2019 budget to increase employee pay.

Some money was budgeted for raises in 2019, but making the pay changes recommended by the study would require an additional $254,621, according to a memo to the commission from the city’s human resources division. In the memo, the human resources division recommends making the pay increases and says that if the city wants highly qualified workers, it needs to pay competitive wages.

Last month, City Manager Tom Markus said that the city is losing specialized staff at a high rate, and that significant raises could be required to stem the tide of outgoing employees. More than 20 highly specialized city staff members whose jobs require formal technical and scientific training have resigned in the past few years, according to information the city provided the Journal-World.

The report from McGrath indicates that the city’s pay for nonunion employees, or employees not working in the police or fire and medical departments, is indeed falling behind pay of similar communities. The report compared Lawrence’s pay to that of more than a dozen other communities, including Johnson County, Lenexa, Manhattan, Overland Park, Topeka and Wichita.

McGrath found that almost 40 percent of the city’s benchmark positions have not kept pace with the market and that has caused the city to have problems with recruitment of qualified applicants, according to the report. McGrath recommends pay increases over the next five years to make pay market competitive.

The human resources division recommends implementing the 2019 changes with the first pay period in the second quarter of 2019, according to the memo. The cost to bring all employees into the new pay grade for 2019 is estimated in the memo at $412,814. The city already budgeted $75,000 for pay increases in 2019 and an additional $83,193 was made available due to reductions in longevity payments, leaving $254,621 that would still need to be funded. The memo notes that amount could be funded by spending down the 2018 fund balance or reducing other 2019 budgeted expenditures.

McGrath recommends that the city temporarily suspend its merit-based pay increases until it can fully implement the new pay structure and ensure employees are being paid within appropriate ranges. McGrath also recommends that a formal market survey and analysis be completed every two to three years and that the city use a market indicator to adjust pay ranges annually.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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