April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Town employees to see pay raises, more holidays

By HSJ Online [email protected]

The Hope Town Council settled on a pay raise of up to 2 percent for all town employees, but will be looking at ways to modernize all of the town's personnel rules.

The council accepted a recommendation from Clerk-Treasurer Diane Burton Monday night that the town could afford a 2 percent pay raise for employees, but not before considering several other options.

Councilman Clyde Compton pointed out that a close reading of the salary ordinance revealed several problems including extremely low starting pay scales for some positions and a lack of consistency in supervision structure and supervisor hours. He also said it seemed unfair for salaried positions to receive the relatively large pay increase that a flat 2 percent would bring, while other employees saw much smaller increases by dollar amount.

The council agreed that the entire ordinance needs to be revamped before next year's budget hearings, but there was not time to make the needed changes before the end of the year. By law, elected officials salaries have to be set by the end of the year. And while employees salaries are not required to be set yet, Burton warned that a long delay while policies were revised, could cause complications with back pay and payroll processing.

The Council did consider a pay hike of 2 percent for the clerk-treasurer, no pay increases for the council, and holding off on employee pay raises until the ordinance and policies could be revised. However after discussion none of the four Council members present would vote for that plan.

Ultimately, the Council agreed to the original ordinance proposal. And they agreed that the deputy clerk would receive a pay increase to bring that position in line with the clerk in the utilities office. That pay range is from $8.66 to $12.76 per hour. Without the increase, the deputy clerk was receiving between $8.57 to $11.42 an hour.

The pay increase would give Council members an annual pay of $3,184. Also under the new ordinance, the Council president would receive a pay increase to cover extra responsibilities.

The raises are not automatic for employees and are at the discretion of their supervisors, according to council members.

Later, Town Manager Melina Fox recommended the Council approve a $2,800 contract with New Focus HR -- a freelance human resources consulting firm -- that would review the town's salary ordinance, employee policies and create an employee handbook. She said the employment rules had not been revised in more than 10 years.

Fox said the firm came highly recommended by other towns and the company recently finished a revision of the policies for the Heritage Fund -- The Bartholomew County Community Foundation. The goal would be to have the revisions in place before the start of the budget discussions next summer, she said.

Also, the Council approved an increased number of paid legal holidays for town employees. Fox said her research revealed that the employees of the state, Bartholomew County and the city of Columbus enjoyed 14 to 15 paid holidays, while Hope workers only have nine.

Town employees are already off on New Year's Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She suggested adding five additional days including New Year's Eve, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day.

Council members Ohmer Miller and Compton initially balked at the introduction of so many holidays for employees, with Miller protesting Martin Luther King Jr. Day in favor of Presidents' Day and Compton suggesting that employees be able to take their own birthday off as a holiday, rather than a January holiday.

Councilman Jerry Bragg said that he thought the town should bring its holiday schedule in line with other government organizations and Council President Jonathan Titus agreed, making the motion to approve the holiday schedule presented by Fox. The Council voted 3-1 for the change with Compton voting against it.

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