Mayor wants raises for workersBy ANTHONY WARREN,
After ending furlough Fridays and increasing pay for public works front-line workers, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is now eyeing across-the-board pay raises for city employees.
Lumumba discussed his plans at a recent city council meeting.
He told council members that his administration was studying the effects of adjusting the pay scale to make salaries “commensurate” with employees’ skills and responsibilities.
“As we have this discussion about how we recruit the best and brightest, we have to have a pay scale, which is commensurate with the responsibilities people (are) taking on and commensurate with cities of similar size and region,” he said. “One thing that is consistent across the board is that we are entirely out of date.”
The administration is looking into revising the pay scale weeks after ending furlough Fridays and giving public works road and water crews a small bump in pay as part of the 2018 budget.
The announcement came at the same meeting the council voted to rescind its residency ordinance for police and firefighters.
Police Chief Lee Vance told members that his department was unable to recruit new officers, in part, because city code required officers to live in the city limits.
Vance also discussed salary concerns, saying pay needed to be increased to help bring in new officers and stave off the department’s shortage. In June, Jackson had 382 sworn officers, down from 440 at the end of budget year 2016.
Recruits in the capital city earn $25,900 a year during and right after the academy. After six months, pay is raised to $26,375; and after a year, salaries are increased to around $31,000.
By contrast. in Mobile, officers earn $31,679 out of the academy, and $36,679 after six months; Shreveport officers earn $33,000 in the first year; and Birmingham officers with a high school diploma or equivalency earn $37,230 a year, according to each city’s Web site.
Other departments are also facing shortages. Public works ended the 2016 fiscal year with 157 employees, down from 395 in 2015, according to the city’s most recent comprehensive annual financial report.
Lumumba said municipal workers have not had a pay raise in 11 years. “In some regard, we’re talking about a fight for $15 (an hour) for people in the fast food industry when we don’t pay nearly that for most people in public works.
“We’ve increased our pay to a little over $10 recently to make them competitive with private industries.”
Council members generally support increasing salaries, but want more information.
“This is basic good management, studying and thinking about it,” Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said. “I’m wondering how long it will take to get the study done and if there is an estimated cost of the study.”
The personnel department has done an initial analysis of the mayor’s pay plan, and said it would raise the base salary of employees to above $10 an hour. “The cost of implementation is about $1.2 million,” he said.
Ward Four Councilman De’Keither Stamps wants to make sure any raises implemented are sustainable. “We need to talk about sustainability. We can give it this year, but can we afford it five years from now?” he asked. “I don’t want to give a pay raise and then (put employees on) furlough two years later.”
In 2015, the city implemented a temporary furlough, requiring all non-essential employees to give up one day of pay each month to help the city cut costs. (Employees would not work on the third Friday to compensate for the loss of pay.)
Lumumba campaigned on and repealed the furlough program as part of his first budget.
Also as part of the budget, the administration readjusted the pay scale to give pay raises to all public works field technicians.
Field technicians are some of the city’s hardest workers, and responsible for repairing water and sewer lines, filling potholes and paving streets. At the same time, they’re some of the lowest-paid workers, earning in the $21,000s annually. This year’s pay raise equated to about a dollar an hour increase.
The median salary for public works laborers is $15.34 an hour, or around $31,907 a year, according to payscale.com.
It was not clear when any pay raises would go into effect.
Blaine couldn’t be reached for follow-up comments.