Seward City Hall close up

The City Council received its first report on a study of the city’s employee classification and compensation at its meeting Tuesday night. The study remains in a draft state, but a representative from the firm conducting it briefed the council on the firm’s recommendations for Seward.

In general, the firm recommended an almost across-the-board increase in the wages paid to city employees. The recommendations, if adopted, would see the city’s positions reclassified into a sequence of thirteen grades. Positions within each grade would be eligible for the exact same pay range.

The city agreed to conduct a study following a successful unionization drive by the Seward Public Employees Association.

Joellen Cademartori of GovHR USA described her companies findings in a two-pronged examination of Seward’s personnel environment. The firm first compared the positions outlined in the city’s classification plan to one another in an effort to establish what Cademartori called “internal equity.”

The idea is to compare the duties and skills required of employees in different positions and ensure that similar compensation be given for comparable work. 

The firm next compared the wages paid by the City of Seward to those paid by other cities for comparable work. Cademartori told the council that GovHR had felt forced to expand the scope of its study beyond the Kenai Peninsula to secure enough data for a robust analysis.

GovHR sent surveys to a number of communities around Alaska asking what they pay employees who perform different kinds of work, Cademartori said. The firm used the responses to calculate a “market rate” for municipal work of different kinds, and used the results to construct recommended pay ranges.

In addition to the mostly increased pay ranges, the firm recommends a switch from a defined increment compensation plan, in which employees move along a ladder of “steps” from one pay rate to another, to an open range plan. 

In an open range plan, the city manager would determine the size of an individual’s raise, rather than confining merit increases to fixed percentage increases along a ladder.