Lower-level employees not too far off the pace in salary increases

KINGMAN - Since publishing the pay increases awarded to city staff in the last four weeks, numerous employees have contacted the Miner to express their astonishment with the major increases to department heads' salaries.

In light of those complaints, a records request was filed and recently returned showing that average compensation for lower-level employees aren't far off from those received by department heads, at least when calculated by percentage increase.

Percentage increases for department heads averaged approximately 11 percent this fiscal year. Based on nearly a dozen salary records of lower-level employees, the average salary increase was about 9 percent between 2005 and 2007.

The actual dollar amount of a 10 percent increase to an employee earning $90,000 is double what someone making $45,000 earns, for example.

The eight employees whose records were released by the city this week and who earn less than $55,000 a year saw an average $3,780 salary increase in the last two fiscal years, during this payroll surge.

That compares to $10,284.48 in actual dollars for the average department head for each of the last two years.

The lower-level employees ranged from groundskeepers to equipment operations and administrative secretaries to building inspectors.

A groundskeeper for the city, now in his seventh year, pulled in $28,200 this year after average yearly increases of 5.86 since 2000. In the last two years, he's seen an average increase of 9.42 percent, or about $2,324 a year.

Street Superintendent Blake Chapman is earning $53,883 in 2007, his 25th year with the city. Salary increases throughout his long career averaged 6.62 percent, including promotions/changes in position. Chapman saw an 8.7 percent average increase since the payroll budget policy was implemented, or about $4,800 a year.

An administrative assistant who's been with the city for more than 22 years started out earning not quite $11,000 in 1985. After average increases of 5.9 percent per year, including promotions, she's now pulling in $47,267, according to city records. In the last two years, she saw an 11 percent increase in pay, or about $4,450 each year.

The Miner reported on May 13 that the 14 department heads account for 9 percent of the $14.9 million payroll budget this fiscal year.

That did not calculate benefits and total costs, however. That 9 percent was for salaries only. Department heads actually took up approximately 10 percent of the total budget in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Since the payroll budget took effect in July 2005, the average total cost between two fiscal years was $13,970,365 for all employees. Department heads accounted for 10.3 percent of all payroll costs. About one-tenth of the total payroll cost to the city was distributed to one-third of the employee base.

According to the city Chamber of Commerce statistics from 2004, the last year available, the average wage in Mohave County was $13.65 an hour. At 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year, that comes out to $28,392 a year as the average salary. Of the records obtained on 12 lower-level city employees, three came in below that average for fiscal year 2004. These three employees held positions as equipment operators for the Public Works Department and a groundskeeper.

Estimates by year

The total amount spent on payroll in 2004-05 came out to an average of $25,878 per employee. This includes all benefits, Social Security, workers compensation and all other costs to hire an employee. That also is just an average, which is thrown off by some making less and others, department heads for example, earning more in salary and benefits.

In 2005-06, the average increased to $32,196 per employee, and this year it came to $34,983 each.

In the two years during which the city payroll increased $5.1 million, the average cost per employee averaged $33,589.48 per year, an increase of $7,713.68 from fiscal year 2004-05. Department heads during this two-year period cost the city an average of $103,026 each in salary and benefits only, meaning that Social Security, workers compensation and other costs are not included.

Costs to note

• Paul Beecher, two years with the city as manager: $279,048 in past two years, not including $58,245.50 in benefits, $6,000 auto allowance, $12,850 paid by city for first six months of rent in Kingman and $12,200 moving expenses.

• Jackie Walker, 12 years with city, five years as human resources director: $200,496.30 in salary and benefits for past two years combined.

• Tom Duranceau, 22 years with city, all but last as Planning & Zoning Department director: $199,117.24 salary and benefits in the past two years combined.

• Wastewater superintendent, 19 years with the city, the last eight as wastewater superintendent: $131,587 salary and benefits in two years combined.

• Groundskeeper, seven years with the city; $66,287 salary and benefits in last two years combined.