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Bismarck City Commission hires firm to study employee salaries

Bismarck City Commission hires firm to study employee salaries

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The Bismarck City Commission will pay a consulting firm to update an employee salary plan in the midst of concerns about staff recruitment and retention.

Commissioners later this year will have to decide whether to implement the update.

Georgia-based consulting firm Condrey and Associates created a salary plan for Bismarck in 2015, but the city has not consistently increased wages each year like the plan recommends. That leaves employees making about 6.1% less than the market rate, according to City Human Resources Director Bob McConnell. He asked the commission at its Feb. 8 meeting to allow the firm to update the plan, citing employee turnover and difficulty hiring new staff.

Commissioner Nancy Guy on Tuesday said she had received an email from a city employee about difficulty hiring a new mechanic. McConnell confirmed the position has not been filled.

"They are on their third attempt to hire a mechanic," he said. "They have made four offers ... Those four applicants have all rejected us -- we're starting to get a complex -- because it would be too great of a pay cut."

Commissioner Greg Zenker previously said he felt that a study would not fully capture employee compensation because it would not examine benefits such as health care. The commissioners asked McConnell on Feb. 8 to check if Condrey and Associates would evaluate employee benefits as well as salaries between comparable cities. The cost for the plan update is $32,500; having the firm conduct a benefits study would have cost an extra $15,000. The commission did not approve a benefits study Tuesday.

McConnell told the Tribune that the city's employee benefits are similar to those at Burleigh County and the state of North Dakota.

Commissioners initially considered different options, including having the city update employee salaries on its own, before choosing to have Condrey and Associates do the job.

City officials said that having the plan updated would give the city more information, especially when it comes to next year's budget.

"This will help us understand where we need to be and what the dollar amount is and what we need to anticipate for 2022," Finance Director Dmitriy Chernyak said. "Whether it's something we can implement or not is something to be seen through budget committee."

All commissioners except Mark Splonskowski voted to update the salary plan. Splonskowski suggested the city go back to the 2015 salary plan and adjust wages so they are in accordance with where the plan says they should be.

The updating work will begin in March and should be finished in time for 2022 budget discussions.

One resident spoke out against the plan update during the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting. Mike Connelly, who ran for a seat on the city commission last summer, told the group that not including employee benefits such as health insurance or sick leave seemed a "glaring hole" to him.

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or sam.nelson@bismarcktribune.com.

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