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Wendy Reuer, Published February 04 2013

West Fargo evaluates city employee wages

WEST FARGO – The City Commission here will soon learn if it is paying its employees too little or too much.

The commission heard an update on the study by Public Sector Personnel Consultants’ Kaye Tilzer on Monday evening. The $29,500 study that aims to update all job descriptions of city employees and analyze whether wages are competitive with other public sector jobs in the region was approved by the commission in December.

Results are expected by May 1 before the following fiscal-year budget talks begin, said Carmen Schroeder, West Fargo human resources director.

On Monday, Tilzer said the study was already in full swing, with questionnaires sent out to all employees asking them to describe all the duties they perform as part of their job. Over the next few days, Public Sector Personnel staff will meet one on one to discuss job functions with each city employee.

“(Conversations) will strictly be content-based on jobs; we’re not looking at individual performances,” Tilzer said.

Each job description will be updated. Then, wages employees earn will be evaluated and compared to similar jobs in cities across eastern and central North Dakota and western Minnesota.

Salaries that are 5 percent above or below the market average could then be evaluated by the City Commission.

Tilzer said benefits the city offers, such as health, dental and vision insurance, are included in wage calculation.

“We’ll be looking at anything that is contributing more than 5 percent of the salary,” Tilzer said.

Schroeder said she has cautioned employees not to expect an automatic raise because of the study.

“That’s my concern – that everybody doesn’t think they are going to get a raise from this,” Commissioner Mark Simmons said.

Although the study may not result in a high number of raises for city employees, the reclassification and creation of job descriptions could lead to more hires in the next fiscal year, Mayor Rich Mattern said.

“We’re growing so fast. Maybe some job descriptions need to change,” Mattern said.

Along with the study, Tilzer said her firm will work with the city to create new job descriptions if hires appear to be needed. Consultants also check back with cities 12 months after a study is completed to re-evaluate positions.

About 110 employees are working for the city on any given day, Mattern said.

The last time the city took a comprehensive look at wages and job descriptions was in 1997, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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