Employee compensation, pensions dominate Ballwin budget talks
By: Jim Erickson
A salary survey taken as part of the city of Ballwin’s budget preparation shows most city employees’ compensation is well below the average of similar area communities. And, after a lengthy discussion of the financial impact of trying to remedy the disparity, the Ballwin Board of Aldermen narrowly approved a motion advising the city administration to explore the specifics of possible steps to address the issue in the 2013 budget.
The Board’s action, which passed on a 4-3 vote, does not commit the city to increasing employee salaries. Instead, it asks city staff members to prepare more detailed information on the 2013 budget assuming a 3 percent wage hike on a motion made by Alderman Frank Fleming (Ward 3).
Such an increase apparently would not apply to all employees. In an earlier proposal, Robert Kuntz, city administrator, recommended that salary adjustments not apply to those now at the top of the salary range for their respective positions. In a memo to the Board explaining the exceptions, Kuntz said that wage differences are more pronounced at the lower end of the pay ranges. He suggested a 2 percent merit pay boost that adds about $126,600 to the payroll.
Plans now call for an analysis of spending plans to be submitted for review at the Board’s Oct. 8 meeting. The Board also will hold a 6 p.m. work session on general budget issues on the same date.
On a related issue, the Ballwin Board unanimously approved a motion that ended consideration of any action to assist police department personnel in their switch from a defined contribution pension program to LAGERS, a defined benefit plan whose retirement payments are based on each participant’s years of service and their rate of pay.
The issue arose because the years of service many police officers have been able to purchase with funds from the former program aren’t equal to the years they’ve been on the job and won’t yield the level of retirement income they were expecting. For those nearing the end of their careers, with little time remaining to accumulate more years of service, the issue is especially difficult.
Kuntz’s memo on compensation issues noted that any steps to help police personnel catch up in the pension conversion is fraught with complications and fairness issues. As an alternative, the city administrator suggested the Board consider increasing the city’s pension contribution for all employees, effective July 1, 2013.
The move would boost Ballwin’s pension fund contribution $80,607 next year. No action was taken on that issue either, pending further study of all budget matters.