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Stevens Point pay study might become $30,000 thrown away


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- The deep divides between the common council and the mayor over Stevens Point’s recent employee pay study and implementation plan may cost taxpayers over $30,000 dollars.

The study conducted by the Carlson Dettmann Consulting firm was a year in the making, and was modified by removing certain cities from the comparisons.

Some council members don’t trust Mayor Andrew Halverson and the Carlson Dettmann Consulting firm because they didn’t get information the consultant says is proprietary. At the last council meeting, Alderman Mike Wiza said he would consider scrapping the entire plan for that reason. Some others may follow suit.

Halverson says the original study before council changes was on target, and brought to light some inequities.  “You know, we are overpaying significantly some of our employees, vis-à-vis the private sector. That’s not equitable to the taxpayer. Something that this payplan process revealed, and it’s certainly something where our local unions have been very upset by that and have engaged in a lot of lobbying of some of these alderpersons, who have attempted and have been successful in casting a shadow of doubt over the implementation of this pay plan.”

The mayor says the job grades are still good, but the salaries assigned to them are not a true picture of the market.  “We have an excellent pay plan from a grade perspective that is a very workable document. The Common Council made a mistake by removing those comparables. the averages are now very off, so the validity of the steps, the actual salary steps through the plan are wrong. Those need to be corrected. If that change happens, we have an extremely correct and very workable document to move forward from.”

Halverson believes it would be a mistake to throw out the study and start over.  “I think we will get there, but we have some alderpersons that want to scrap the entire process, want to eliminate and literally throw into the recycling bin this pay plan and walk away from the nearly 30 thousand dollars that was invested in it. Horribly inefficient and a very poor use of taxpayer dollars.”

Some council members don’t support the idea of paying some workers less, while granting large raises to supervisory positions.  Halverson says not doing so will lead to retention problems.  “There are a few alderpersons that are worried about the outcome, specifically to one special interest group as opposed to looking holistically at how we need to retain and recruit the best employees possible. The pay plan in terms of its foundation is excellent for that. As long as we change the averages within the steps, we have a perfectly workable document.”  He adds, “I can’t be surprised that a city to our north takes one of our best. (Referring to Wausau Fire Chief Tracey Kujawa)  I can’t be surprised when a wastewater superintendent leaves and earns $10,000 dollars more, when a city engineer leaves and has a salary opportunity that is significantly greater than what he had here. I understand that.  My leadership team understands that. We have a crisis from a retention point of view right now because of how far below the averages we are. I need a governing body to start to understand that.”

The mayor has little council support on the pay plan issues. Halverson believes the alderpersons need to look again at what keeping basically the same structure they’ve had will do in the long run.  “When you look at a total compensation package of a streets worker at over $80,000 dollars a year, and the closest equivalent in the private sector being $60,000, that’s a concern that needs to be addressed. At the same time, when I look at some of our supervisory leadership in the mid-level supervisors as well as the department head level positions paid some 20-25 thousand under where they should be, those are alarming concerns.”

Comptroller-Treasurer Corey Laddick is watching the issue closely.  He has said Stevens Point has a limited budget, and cannot support the upper grade raises Halverson supports.

Next, the common council will meet to hold a hearing for many employees that have appealed the outcome of the study and how it affects them. That special meeting will be scheduled within the next three weeks.

(Listen to our interview with Mayor Andrew Halverson on our website, here.)