Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms and City Council will meet next week on Monday to discuss a new pay scale study from Valdosta State University.
The study says problems with Warner Robins' city salaries could potentially be causing employee turnover and low morale.
This week, Warner Robins received a report from Valdosta State University on the city's salary compression problem.
The report says the current salary system leads to new employees making the same as their more veteran coworkers.
Fire Chief Ross Moulton says that's a problem.
“You know, the starting salary is not the big issue, because I think we're comparable where they start. It's as they move forward. Like our one-year guy to our six-year guy right now all make the same thing,” Moulton said in his office.
The study’s conclusions agree. It says the city’s salaries are “generally competitive” with comparable cities and counties.
But, the study and one of its authors, Robert Yehl, said the salary compression problem hits the police and fire departments hard.
For example, it says 38 of 39 firefighters hired from 2010 to 2015 make the same as firefighters hired in 2016. Later in the study, it says several firefighters with more than 10 years of experience “have not reached pay scale mid-point.”
Valdosta State says that can lower morale and cause high turnover. It’s something Chief Moulton is starting to see.
“We've started to see a little trend toward more people look elsewhere. We've had a few, not many, but a few who have left this job to be firefighters in other places,” Moulton said.
However, Moulton said firefighters had a heart and passion for what they do, so he does not expect lower morale to be a problem.
The turnover problem, can be an expensive one.
Moulton explained that training new firefighters can cost thousands of dollars, since recruits get paid a full salary while being trained. The study says training new firefighters and police officers can sometimes cost “70-150 percent of an employee’s annual salary.”
The study suggests a step pay system that rewards employees each year for staying with the city as long as they do good work.
But a pay scale would be expensive to implement, as much as $1.5 million.
Mayor Randy Toms says it's worth the cost.
“We implement it with what we have now, even if we, and I know this not desirable, but if you have to dip into reserves to fix it right now, but then it's an ongoing fix that you have to finance,” Toms said in his office.
The study did point out that Warner Robins does well when it comes to retirement benefits. Warner Robins pays 100 percent of retirement contributions. Of the 16 other cities and counties the study looked at, only six paid 100 percent of retirement contributions.
Yehl and Valdosta State also suggested the city give employees an annual compensation statement. The statement would list the employee’s salary, cost of benefits, and retirement contributions to show all the compensation.
Mayor Toms and Chief Moulton said they hope the problem is fixed for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, the deadline is July 1st.