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Salary study nears

(Oct. 17, 2014) How much of a pay cut – or increase – would a municipal executive in Raleigh, N.C. take in order to come to Ocean City? We’re about to find out.

The City Council this week approved a list of comparable jurisdictions and agencies to be used in the city’s upcoming employee compensation study, which is being done in preparation for negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police that will likely determine the direction of city salaries and benefits for the next several budgets.

The study is being done under a contract with Management Advisory Group International Inc.

“Your organization presents a little more of a challenge than some, because you swing from a relatively small town during part of the year to a rather large, populated urban area for the other part of the year,” said David Lookingbill, a consultant with MAGI.

“There’s a balance that you all must find as to how you structure your organization and staff your departments in order to reasonably meet needs that are wildly different form one time of the year to the other.”

MAGI’s process is two-part, Lookingbill said.

“The process we go through is a combination, were we first get information from the employees and their superiors about what jobs are going on right now in the town,” he said.

That process has been nearly completed over the past two months, city Human Resources Director Wayne Evans said, as more than 500 of the city’s full- and part-time employees have filled out surveys. Lookingbill met this past week with the city’s department heads and upper management.

“The other part of the process is to get salary survey information from a variety of organizations, for a variety of types and levels of work,” Lookingbill said.

“We need to stress that the job structure here is very important,” he noted. “If you don’t have your jobs within your organization set out well, the pay for those jobs may look great on the outside market, but within your organization it’s going to fall apart.”

The bulk of Lookingbill’s list consists of Maryland municipalities – from Baltimore to Berlin – as well as county and state agencies in both Maryland and Delaware. Additional agencies, such as the Maryland State Police, are included for unique personnel structures such as the police.

“We find that an organization that would be good for comparison with some types of jobs would not be good for others,” Lookingbill said.

However, no resort communities are included on the general list. Only the Ocean City Beach Patrol is slated for comparative data versus Bethany, Rehoboth, and Virginia Beach.

Council members had relatively few questions, with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asking if it was possible to include more private industry organizations on the list. But it is “virtually impossible,” Lookingbill said, to get specific payroll data from privately held companies.

Councilman Dennis Dare also suggested including more colleges and hospitals on the list, many of which share seasonal service employees – such as bus drivers – with Ocean City.

Council Secretary Mary Knight also stressed that the study should look beyond just dollars.

“The salary is key, but we want to have happier employees who see there’s opportunity in the Town of Ocean City and don’t just stay here for 18 months,” Knight said.

“We have asked the staff about jobs where we have difficulty finding people or jobs where there may be excessive turnover,” Evans said. “We are actively looking into that as well.”

Pillas also asked how the city would allow for differences in cost of living in locations where job structures may be similar, but employees expect higher wages to help with higher living costs.

“Raleigh, for instance, is an expensive place to live. Rockville is an expensive place to live. I just want to make sure we’re compensating for that,” Pillas said.

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