The Town of Front Royal is currently in the process of finalizing the first year of a three-year implementation process based on the recommendations of a consultant hired to evaluate the Town’s payroll compared to surrounding jurisdictions.
The purpose of the $25,750 consultant Compensation and Classification Study done by Maryland-based PayPointHR is to bring Town staff salaries into a more competitive alignment with comparable surrounding communities in order to cut down on staff attrition to higher paying jobs in those neighboring communities – essentially municipalities in Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Frederick and Clarke Counties, as well as the City of Winchester.
As for pay-scale competition from the east, the Town like most other Valley municipalities has thrown in the towel on matching salaries for those willing to commute into Northern Virginia and D.C. Metro traffic hell (heck, the therapy and medication costs alone would eat up your extra salary).
Town Manager Joe Waltz told Royal Examiner that involved administrative staff is in the final phase of mapping out the first-year implementation that will kick in with the new fiscal year (FY2019) on July 1, 2018.
Consultant PayPointHR gave the Town two options, a five and three-year implementation plan. Town council opted for the shorter phase-in to address a problem that saw an average 17% annual employee turnover rate in recent years.
“Our goal was to develop a unified pay plan that involved all our employees, full and part-time,” Waltz said. He added that based on an estimate of an adequate minimum, living wage in the community of $11.78 an hour, no new employee will be brought on at under that pay scale in the future.
Waltz estimated about 90 employees of a total of 175 full and part-time staff impacted by the current implementation plan that involves full and part-time, as well as specific trade positions. Currently, the Town has 164 full-time and 11 part-time employees.
Impacted staff will see raises implemented at varying points in the coming fiscal year based on various criteria. However, the town manager said the only changes from the original outline of the year-one implementation are due to new hires, promotions and transfers in recent months.
The PayPointHR summary estimates a $100,996 cost of implementation in year one of the three-year process; and a total three-year cost of $347,530; with years two and three costing $123,267 each.
However, Waltz said current annual implementation estimates are $123,815 in the coming fiscal year and $121,946 in both years two and three for a total cost of $367,707. Final year two and three budget numbers will be determined in the next two fiscal year budget processes.
As for the total cost difference, Town Manager Waltz noted that several positions were open during the PayPointHR study period, accounting for the increase when applied to current staff on board as implementation takes place.
Pay scale priorities
The PayPointHR Compensation and Classification Study summary lists an eight-point plan of action.
In order of priority those points are: 1/ Raise the salary of positions that are below the Living Wage for Warren County or Part-Time positions that are substantially below market. That involved three Crossing Guards and two recycle attendants at a total cost of $1,869 to implement; 2/ Raise the salary of Full-Time positions that are substantially below market and earn below the median household income of $47,981 ($23.07 an hour) for Front Royal. That involved 39 positions at a total cost of $198,255 to implement; 3/ Raise the salary of Full-Time positions that are substantially below market, but earn above the median household income of $47,981. That involved nine positions at a total cost of $41,299 to implement; 4/ Raise the salary of Full-Time positions that are below market and earn below the median income of $47,981 for Front Royal. That involved 17 positions at a total cost of $45,996; 5/ Raise the salary of Full-Time positions that are below market, but earn above the median household income of $47,981 for Front Royal. That involved 13 positions at a total cost of $60,111 to implement.
There were 83 impacted positions in recommendations 1 through 5, with no specific positions or cost listed with the final three recommendations: 6/ Adjust the salaries of positions that are near market with normal base-salary and tenure adjustments; 7/ Discontinue making base salary adjustments to the salary of positions that are above or substantially above the market until compensation is near market. Continue providing tenure-based salary adjustments. One might guess number 7 means no raises by rote to higher-salaried department heads and other management positions that are already competitively priced in the regional market; 8/ Adjust only the salary scale by the Southern Mid-Atlantic Consumer Price Index (CPI) yearly to help ensure the Town’s salary plan keeps up with market. Individual salaries would not be scaled by the CPI.
Related to the inclusion of a total of 26 FRPD personnel, including 13 officers and six communications officers; one captain; and six sergeants in categories two, three and five respectively, Waltz noted that council began dealing with Town police officer attrition with adoption of new pay scales tied to completion of FRPD’s Master Police Officer Program in recent years. Total cost of the related hikes for the 26 police staff listed over full implementation was $178,000 according to the PayPointHR summary.
One can only hope the plan works to keep, not only police but all trained town staff on the job locally for more, if not all, of their municipal employment careers. Because before you start grousing about the tax dollars supporting these raises, the next time you want a town service – say trash and recycling collection, street cleaning or snow removal, continued or restored utility service, or perhaps just a smile at the Town payment window, not to mention a police response – remember, you get what you PAY for…