Rolling in dough

Administrators’ pay up sharply in the city’s last two fiscal years

KINGMAN - The city's new policy to increase salaries for city employees was an effort to combat high turnover and make Kingman competitive with similar sized cities. Part of these increases went to department heads, who, according to records obtained from the city, haven't had high turnover rates.

Also, several of the Arizona city manager salaries used to compare and set the Kingman city manager's salary were inaccurately reported to the Kingman City Council, based on public records obtained from these cities.

Half of the city of Kingman department heads have held their current positions for between five and 10 years. Two positions were created by the new city manager in 2006, and several were vacated due to retirement or resignation. Nine of the staff members have been with the city for a minimum of five years, and a majority of those were promoted after having been with the city since the 1970s, '80s and early '90s. The 52.6 percent increase in total payroll from 2005 to 2007 was aimed to combat high turnover within the city.

Mostly because of salary increases in the last two fiscal years, since Paul Beecher took over as city manager, salaries for the top 10 highest paid employees now make up 6.8 percent of the total payroll budget for this fiscal year. That compares to 4.5 percent for Bullhead City's and 5.2 percent for Lake Havasu City's top 10 highest compensated employees.

Big raises

According to city documents, the competitive-edge salary structure took effect in July 2005.

Since the 2004-05 fiscal year, eight of the department heads, those who've been in their positions for several years, have seen salary increases averaging $17,208 in two fiscal years. That's approximately $8,600 each. When the city manager's salary increases are added to this average, it rises to $20,569 over two years.

The study used to make the city's salaries more competitive was an average based on comparator cities, but according to the Miner's own official records requests with several of these cities, the documentation that city staff gave Council to review before approving Beecher's $19,000 salary increase last year, many of the statistics are incorrect.

For example, the Kingman staff's report to Council noted Lake Havasu City's manager earning $144,996. According to public records provided by Lake Havasu City, its manager was paid $113,454 for 2006-07. Lake Havasu City had just hired a new manager, Richard Kaffenberger, in late 2005. His base salary started out at $98,436 plus $14,300 in benefits. The city manager before him earned $120,065 in salary up until December 2005, when Kaffenberger took over.

By comparison, Beecher started out with $130,000, a $28,312 increase over the previous Kingman manager's salary. Beecher's benefits increased 165 percent from the previous manager, from $12,361 to $32,830, a jump of $20,469.

At the time of Beecher's hire, the city manager was making $101,688. Beecher's contract had him starting at $130,000. After one year, he received a 15 percent - $19,000 - increase, to $149,148.

Beecher's salary increases were based on a study headed by Human Resources and Risk Management Director Jackie Walker, who saw significant pay increases herself totaling $38,021 from 2004 to 2007.

Different numbers

Other cities were used to compare and plot Beecher's salary at the 50th percentile. But again, three of the four public records requests returned so far have shown significantly different salaries for other cities' managers than the statistics used in Walker's study, which she said was based on information from the Arizona Cities and Towns League survey that's distributed at the beginning of each calendar year.

Also, the numbers of the Cities and Towns study for this year, a copy of which was provided to the Miner by Beecher, only match with Bullhead City and Kingman. The League's study says Lake Havasu City paid its manager $129,984, which matches neither the $113,00 or the $145,000 statistics.

Besides Lake Havasu City, public records request statistics for Prescott and Scottsdale were also different from those provided by the League's statistics.

According to the study provided by Walker last year, the Prescott manager made $185,112 as of early 2006. According to the new study, provided by Beecher, the Prescott manager's salary comes out to $161,856. The salary range provided by the study is from $134,760 to $188,676.

Records requests from the City of Prescott show the city manager was making $142,798.66 in early 2006.

Walker's stats also said that the Scottsdale manager made $163,824, while the latest League study says $167,664, an increase of 2.3 percent. Scottsdale records turned up $151,091 in early 2006.

According to the latest League study, the average salary for city manager's of towns between 10,000 and 49,999 population is $129,132 a year. Kingman's manager, by this study, comes in seventh out of 27 total cities.

It cannot be determined yet exactly how much of an increase Beecher will receive for the next fiscal year in terms of an increase in salary, but he's recommending a total salary expense increase for his department of $34,491. He has also budgeted $10,000 in the "city bonus program," which compensates city employees "for performance above and beyond, going the extra mile," according to next year's preliminary budget book. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

The $34,500 regular salary increase will be divided by Beecher and two other employees - the administration secretary and the special projects director, Rob Owen. While Council must still approve this number, the city said it accounts for maximum "merit" increases and a 4.1 percent cost of living adjustment in the preliminary budget. The actual spending may differ from this, according to Finance Director Coral Loyd.