Branson’s Board of Aldermen officially approved a policy that had apparently guided city salaries for years without ever having official Board approval.
Bill 6169 on the aldermen’s agenda for the June 14 meeting included an order approving salary caps for department heads. The staff report on the matter said the city was “currently seeking an executive position” and that two other executive or department head positions needed to be filled and that clear direction from the board of directors was needed for the process.
“I would submit [the salary structure] for inclusion in the budget and it has always been removed [starting in 2018]Human Resources Director Jan Fischer told the board. “It’s just kind of a cleanup of the process. It should have been there, but it wasn’t.
Fischer said the salary guidelines for department heads were printed with the budget through 2018 and were created by Fischer and his team by looking at salary ranges from similarly sized communities. The staff report said the compensation plan was approved by the city administrator, but not by the board, because the former city attorney said it was legal for the city administrator to take this action. The current acting city attorney has recommended that council formally approve the compensation plan for city department heads.
Mayor Larry Milton asked about the plan increasing “salary caps” for the positions.
“The increase in caps is just a result of annual increases based on increases in the cost of living and things like that,” Fischer said. “Every time we get a cost of living it increases everything. So if we get a cost of living increase of 2%, the cap goes up by 2%. This contains the 7% raise that all employees got for 2022.”
Fischer noted that even if department heads only received a 4% raise, not raising all caps would have an impact on “compressing lower levels” of the pay structure, and it was important to keep “everything consistent”.
The mayor asked if employees could exceed the cap if there was a cost-of-living increase, but not because of a merit or performance increase.
“If the manager was at the top of the ladder and the cost of living went up 2%, then that’s what the manager got,” Fischer told the mayor. “It shows changes due to cost of living increases since 2014. It does not include merit. Merit is included in it.
Fischer noted that the city does not increase the cost of living every year.
Milton asked about city employees who are not administrators, and Fischer said his department is currently evaluating city positions to review salaries due to upcoming minimum wage increases. Fischer noted that the city strives to stay above minimum wage to make working for the city more attractive to potential employees.
Fischer expected employee pay scales to be completed by late August through early September.
“It may seem like we don’t want to give people what they deserve, but we just want it done right,” Alderman Clay Cooper said. “I know there are things in the past that seem fishy, I know I’ve had a very unprofessional experience with the investigation process, but it’s not about stopping people from getting what they deserve is about doing it the right way.”
Acting City Administrator Lisa Westfall told aldermen the caps can be included either in the budget book or in a stand-alone ordinance so the action before aldermen was valid.
“That’s why we’re transparent,” Milton said. “Some things don’t sound right, some things don’t feel right, but it’s the right thing to do and that’s what you’ll hear from this advice at every meeting going forward.”
The motion to approve the current salary structure for department heads passed unanimously, 6-0.