Killeen city employees will see a 3 percent pay increase reflected in their paychecks next week, but only after much discussion from City Council members and residents Tuesday.
The pay hike, granted in a 5-to-2 vote by the council, will cost the city approximately $547,000, and will come out of various city funds. The increase will be carried out through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and will be factored into the 2014-2015 fiscal budget.
The city employs 1,179 people, which includes 189 firefighters and 232 police officers.
City Manager Glenn Morrison said the raise can be attributed to an increase in efficiencies that resulted in cost savings for the city.
Councilmen Steve Harris and Jonathan Okray, who both voted against the increase, said they could agree with a 3 percent increase for some employees, but not for a blanket raise.
“I believe pay of our senior-level employees is currently adequate and well adjusted for this locale,” Okray said. “I’m more concerned about the pay of our entry-level to intermediate-level employees, mainly the concern to retain and recruit quality employees through pay and compensation incentives.”
Harris said his concern falls with what cities Killeen’s compensation is being compared to.
“Killeen, as far as cost of living, is one of the best places to live,” he said. “As far as Austin or Dallas, they have (more) people, they have more money coming in so their salaries are higher, as expected. I don’t think that everybody needs (a raise) here in Killeen ... due to the cost of living and the pay rate they’re receiving now.”
According to the new pay plan, the lowest pay grade in the city, which receives anywhere from $1,573 to $2,291 monthly, will see an increase of $46 to $67 per month. The highest pay grade, receiving $7,528 to $12,350, will see an increase of $220 to $360 per month.
Councilman Terry Clark said he believes the increase is warranted in order for the city to be competitive in the market in attracting “the best” employees.
“We don’t want to be a training ground for other cities in our civil service jobs, for our police and fire or (for) our noncivil service jobs,” he said.
Councilman Juan Rivera said he thinks city employees deserve more than a 3 percent increase.
“(A) 5 to 10 percent pay raise, that’s what we should really be looking at if we really want to get employees to the level that they deserve to be in,” he said.
Employee compensation was talked about during the 2013-2014 budget deliberations, Morrison said. However, no pay adjustments were made, with the city manager telling the council that he would bring the issue back before it “at the appropriate time.”
Morrison said preliminary results of a compensation study show that city employees are below market comparisons, and the council will be in a “better position” to provide additional pay increases to employees during the current 2014-2015 fiscal year budget process.
The 3 percent increase excludes Morrison, who received a 4 percent merit raise last month.
Residents oppose increase
Ty Birdsong, a Killeen resident, expressed his opposition to the increase in an email to the council.
“The economics does not warrant this high of a (pay) increase,” he stated in the email, which was provided to the Herald by Okray. “As a worker in the private sector, I received a 1 percent (raise) in the last two years.”
Birdsong suggested that the city move forward with a 1 percent increase and use the remainder of the funds to improve city services.
“(As) a homeowner and taxpayer, I see our city services cost increase every year without seeing any improvement of services,” he said.
Birdsong, who also addressed the council at its Tuesday meeting, said a 3 percent increase for police officers and firefighters is “too high.”
“The city workers on the lower pay scale ... should receive a high(er) increase than police and fire,” he said. “As a retired deputy sheriff, I can testify that the pay scale ... is too high.”
The increase puts Killeen police officers just starting out on a probationary basis at $41,593 annually. A 10-year police officer would have an annual salary of $55,453.
With the increase, a firefighter would garner $40,974. A 10-year veteran of the fire department would be compensated at $51,216 annually.
J.W. Eggert, also a Killeen resident, emailed Okray with his concerns regarding a pay increase. He suggested that the compensation hike go before residents to be voted on.
“It’s over a (half-million) dollars a year, which is quite a bit of money for some folks,” he said. “The ballot would let the people decide between a 1, 2, 3 or 4 percent (raise) and therefore allow (the council) all to give a raise to the whole city government, while at the same time affirming that the citizens of Killeen approve.”
City employees have eight paychecks remaining in the current fiscal year.