City increases starting wages; adjusts others

The new year is here and with it comes the start of the new budget year for the City of Langdon.

Posted on 1/4/14

By Lee Coleman

But before the new year bell tolled on Wednesday, the Langdon Board of Commissioners held a special called meeting last Monday to discuss wages.

And in this case, the perceived lack of wages.

When an employment opportunity becomes available, there has been an inherent challenge to recruit well qualified applicants based on a standard starting wage of $2,000 per month.

“I want to discuss wages and where we stand,” said commission president Chuck Downs. “Starting wages is where I want to begin.”

Commissioner Garrett Freier suggested the current starting wage would not work any longer.

“People would laugh at us if we only offered $2,000 to start,” he said. “If you want good employees, you have to pay them good money.

“It goes back to the question, is everyone created equal?”

A starting salary of $2,300 was discussed until commissioner Lawrence Henry proposed raising the stakes to $2,500 per month for new employees.

“We’ve been trying to play catch-up and we’re getting caught now,” Downs said. “It is going to be unpopular no matter which way we go.”

The motion to approve $2,500 per month for new employees and $2,700 for new department heads was approved unanimously, effective at 7 p.m. Dec. 30.

This means a new city employee would start at $30,000 a year minimum with benefits unless the employee was hired on a hourly wage basis.

If a new employee elects to participate in the city health insurance program with personal and family care, at no cost to them, that benefit amounts to $12,037, essentially giving new employees a package of $42,037 a year.

Congruently, the commission gave department heads the flexibility to adjust starting wages to reflect experience, licenses and so forth.

“Having experience adds something too,” added Henry.

In the spirit of remaining fair to current city employees, the commission agreed to raise the salaries of those employees and department heads that fell below the new wage platform.

Five employees fell under this umbrella, resulting in $1,337 more a month.

When the new increases of $100 and $150 respectively in the 2014 budget were factored, $22,044 a year was added for these five employees.

In addition to approving the wage increases, the commissioner discussed insurance premiums and the payment of compensation time versus overtime pay.

The question raised was whether or not employees who chose not to take the city health plan should be paid the extra money.

“I have a problem with that,” exclaimed Freier. “Does that mean a guy without a family would get an extra $500 a month?”

“I think it would open a can of worms,” city auditor Connie Schrader stated.

“We should leave it as is,” Downs said. “Either they use it or they leave it.”

The situation is different for compensation time for hours worked over 40.

The question is, do employees get compensation time or get paid overtime?

City employees have the choice of taking the extra time off some other time or being paid for it per city policy.

The current policy calls for employees to be paid for compensation time unused at the rate of time and a half every six months.

No changes were made.