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Charleston city officials get hefty raises after study

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After the conclusion of a monthslong compensation study completed by an independent consultant, some city department heads received raises of more than $20,000.

City Manager David Molgaard, among those who received a significant pay raise, said he thinks the increases are warranted, based on the consultant’s suggestions that many positions were underpaid.

“We weren’t keeping up with what the market would demand,” he said.

The compensation study, completed by Management Advisory Group International, LLC. at a cost of $43,000, sought to determine an “appropriate classification and compensation system and pay plan based on current compensation levels for similar public sector employers, municipalities, and local market competitors,” according to the report’s executive summary.

Nearly all of the city’s roughly 450 employees received some sort of raise after the study concluded.

The city had set aside roughly $1.5 million, before the current budget was approved, to be allocated to respective positions pending the results.

“Knowing this study was moving forward, we didn’t know what the exact results were going to be, so we were committed to tailoring whatever outcomes that might have come out of that based upon funds we set aside,” Molgaard said.

About 12 percent of the total amount spent on raises went to 25 city department heads.

Molgaard said the consultants determined new pay ranges based on what the positions are paid in the marketplace in other comparable cities, using a formula that took into account the new pay ranges and the years of tenure to help develop how much each employee’s raise should be.

Civic Center General Manager John Robertson received the largest raise — $32,600 —with a new salary of $140,759.

“His position experience was over 30 years, so that takes him automatically up to the top of the [pay] scale,” Molgaard said.

Robertson is the only department head who received the proposed maximum salary recommended by the consultant.

Molgaard and City Attorney Paul Ellis each received raises of more than $21,000.

Their salaries are now $168,500 and $129,900, respectively.

 Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he doesn’t take issue with any of the raises.

“I think [Molgaard] would be impossible to replace,” the mayor said Friday. “If you look around the country, he’s a very active city manager and runs a big government in a capital city, and I have no problem with that.”

Jones added, “The more you pay people, the better people you get.”

Molgaard said originally, his position was not part of the compensation study.

The consultants were asked to add it later on, rather than depending on market benchmarks provided by the International City Manager Association.

“I felt it would be better if the consultants made that call,” Molgaard said. “What we put in place is good for everybody based upon rational facts and analysis.”

None of the raises were based on performance, Molgaard said, but they will be in the future.

At the consultant’s recommendation, the city is moving to an open range pay structure for non-uniformed employees. An open range structure gives raises based on performance as opposed to a step plan structure, which gives raises based on tenure.

When asked whether open range pay structures might be too subjective, Molgaard said the city’s human resources department is looking into programs that would track and manage employees’ performance throughout the year.

“We will sit down with each employee and identify criteria by which they’ll be judged,” he said.

That won’t happen until early next year, and any future raises for employees are “at least a year away,” he added.

Jones said that he also doesn’t think performance-based raises will cause issues.

“I’ll be here two more years — I’ll address any problem that comes from people if there’s really a concerted effort to try to make changes,” he said.

The study marks the first time the city has adopted major changes to its pay plan and salary adjustments since the mid-1990s.

Reach Elaina Sauber at [email protected], 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.

Read more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail. 

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