After much discussion, Ballwin approves employee compensation plan
By: Jim Erickson
The Ballwin Board of Aldermen has approved changes to the city employee compensation plan, boosting minimum and maximum pay for all positions to a level ranking at the 70th percentile among comparable area communities. The new arrangement also provides a pool of funds for merit increases of up to 3 percent targeted at those not affected, or minimally so, by the jump in pay grade ranges.
The changes go into effect April 1.
Action on the plan came at the Board’s Feb. 25 meeting but only after considerable debate, some of it uncharacteristically sharp for a group generally known for its conciliatory discussion even when members have differing views.
The issue has been under consideration for a number of months as the Board reviewed a variety of employee compensation alternatives, including a pension plan upgrade. One of the primary concerns was the police department where, according to Ballwin’s salary survey data, the pay was considerably lower than in other municipalities.
The pension plan alternative was discarded after a lengthy discussion at the Board’s January retreat.
Robert Kuntz, Ballwin’s city administrator, opened the February meeting discussion with what he described as a compromise option. His proposal was similar to what the Board ultimately approved, with the key difference being that Kuntz recommended merit pay hikes of up to 4 percent rather than 3 percent.
The cost of the plan would be $425,000 for the nine months in 2013 when it would apply, he added.
During debate on the topic, Alderman Shamed Dogan (Ward 2) suggested adopting Kuntz’s plan but scaling back the merit increases to no more than 3 percent. Responding to a question on how much such a move would affect the $425,000 price tag on his original proposal, Kuntz estimated such a step would reduce the overall amount needed by some $52,000.
Alderman James Terbrock (Ward 1) urged his colleagues, “Let’s act on this (issue) and not pass it along to the next Board.”
Ultimately, Alderman Kathy Kerlagon (Ward 4) made a motion to adopt the Kuntz plan, including the 4 percent for merit increases. That failed, however, with only Fleming and Terbrock joining Kerlagon in support of the proposal.
Alderman Mark Harder (Ward 2) then moved to approve the Kuntz recommendation but with a 3 percent limit on the merit raises. That motion was adopted 6-2, with Kerlagon and Leahy opposed.
The target of having Ballwin employee salaries equal to the 70th percentile of comparable area communities was one the aldermen adopted a number of years ago. However, the city has slipped from that level in recent years due to budget pressures.