A proposal to change the City of Frederick’s wage structure could make the city more competitive in attracting new workers, according to the city’s mayor.
But some city aldermen worry that part of the restructuring plan could perpetuate historic discrimination in the city’s hiring policies.
Aldermen discussed the possible change to the salary structure included in Mayor Michael O’Connor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2023 during a hearing on Wednesday evening.
O’Connor’s budget would drop the city’s pay scale from 18 pay grades to 15, consolidating the lowest four grades into one. Each grade would have a 60% variation from the lowest salary in that range to the highest, with employees still eligible for merit and other increases within their grade.
It would also include a cost of living adjustment of 6.42%, Katie Barkdoll, director of budget and purchasing, said earlier.
When a pay study was presented to the Board of Aldermen in February, there was a strong desire to move towards a living wage, Barkdoll said on Wednesday.
Not all city employees currently earn a living wage.
The new scale sets the minimum wage for city workers at $20 an hour, though Barkdoll said the scale could be slightly different depending on what the aldermen decides on the cost of living adjustment. .
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said the new minimum wage is a big step forward.
“That’s probably the most exciting thing about this whole budget for me,” she said.
The change would be the first pay restructuring in 15 years and allow the city to attract talented workers, O’Connor said.
“For me, that’s the basis for everything we’re going to do over the next five weeks,” he said.
The new ladder does a better job of raising pay for employees at the bottom of the ladder so they’re closer to a living wage, said Karen Paulson, director of human resources.
Implementing the pay scale changes would cost the city $1.5 million.
The change would also provide each city employee with a one-time payment of $100 for each year they are in their current position.
O’Connor said it would be an effort to ensure employees receive compensation for their experience.
Kuzemchak said she liked the idea of paying for loyalty.
“Experience in a position is important,” she said.
But she would like to see a cap on the amount of money an employee could get under the deal.
Alderman Ben MacShane said the plan could reward loyalty, but it could also perpetuate disparities created by discriminatory hiring policies in the city’s past, either racial discrimination or people from the same families. or social groups who repeatedly got jobs in the city.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re ready to go that far, as long as we don’t upset the apple cart at all,” he said.
O’Connor said he understands MacShane’s point, but the bonus would recognize that employee experience has merit.
Failure to do so would not improve the things MacShane pointed out, he said.
Alderman Derek Shackelford said the minimum wage change won’t matter if the city’s hiring culture doesn’t change.
“Are we changing the culture of how the city does business? he said.
Wednesday was the first of nine hearings on various aspects of the budget.
O’Connor noted that this was the first budget hearing held in person in three years. No member of the public attended Wednesday’s hearing.
The next hearings will be on April 14, with meetings at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The aldermen must vote on the draft budget on May 19.