SHERIDAN — Mayor Dave Kinskey delivered his budget message to City Council Monday with a hint of optimism while still urging financial restraint.
The budget will include pay raises for city employees whose salaries are not at market rate based on a recently completed pay scale study. Kinskey said data indicate that Sheridan is ranked fourth from the bottom out of Wyoming’s 23 counties in terms of recovery from the economic downturn, so while the budget will allow for an increase in appropriations, it will still be a cautious budget. Kinskey also noted that positions that have been eliminated or vacated will likely remain unfilled.
“We hope we’ve seen the worst of it,” Kinskey said. “All indicators are that we are faced with a modest recovery. The data driving those assumptions is incorporated into the budget presented tonight.”
Following the budget message, Steve Condrey with Condrey & Associates presented his recommendation for a pay plan that will bring the city of Sheridan up to a median pay scale for its various positions based on market rate. The study was completed by doing internal analysis of positions and pay rates, complete with questionnaires and interviews with employees, as well as an external analysis that examined private and public entities in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Sheridan.
Condrey said some positions in Sheridan were, indeed, below market rate. He outlined three different pay scales that would cost the city from nearly $214,000 to $336,000 to implement each year.
He also recommended that the city enact an equity adjustment to compensate employees who have been employed longer term.
Kinskey said that equity adjustment will reduce “compression,” in which newer hires and longer-term employees make almost the same pay for the same position, thus ignoring years of service and experience.
Later in the regular meeting, City Council adopted Pay Plan A, which was the highest pay scale Condrey recommended. Pay increases for positions that need to be brought up to meet market value will be enacted retroactively to March 30.
The increases will have an $375,300 annual impact on the general fund.
“It is a huge relief, more so for the employees, even more so than for me. We’ve been through a period of terrific austerity, and we continue to be very conservative in the budget, but we just had to maintain our position as a competitive employer, and so this does it. And this does it, significantly, in a way that is absolutely gender neutral, which is very important,” Kinskey said.
Police Chief Rich Adriaens presented a budget overview during the work session that included a 3 percent projected increase in revenue from sales and use tax for fiscal year 2015. It held much of the budget flat but did allow for anticipated liabilities such as increases in the cost of health care and pension plans.
Adriaens has served as the leader of the management team of department heads during budget season for a few years. Kinskey said this is due to his strong management skills and experience dealing with departments in economic turmoil.
“I look to him to help lead the management team, particularly when some of these things are so involved and I’m trying to get to the point where I can focus much more on legislative things and policy matters,” Kinskey said.
City Clerk Scott Badley presented a new reserve policy during the council work session, which was later adopted during the regular meeting.
That reserve policy will seek to get the city’s reserve accounts up to 31 percent of the total annual budget by fiscal year 2018. Ultimately the city would like to see six month’s worth of the budget in reserves in case of emergencies or economic downturns.