Jonesboro city salary increase numbers not settled, but reported increases could boost payroll costs by almost 7% 

by George Jared ([email protected]) 124 views 

Jonesboro employee salary increase figures discussed in public meetings and in the local media are likely inaccurate and could change when council members vote on wage increases for firefighters and non-uniformed workers later this month, said Jonesboro Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Allen.

“The plan drives the numbers, and until the plan is complete and approved, we won’t have accurate numbers,” Allen said.

Jonesboro has a total payroll budget of about $29 million. It represents 68% of the city’s expenditures. The payroll figures include benefits and taxes paid by the city for its employees, Allen said. The reported increases in all departments would raise the payroll budget by 6.8%, but the number will undoubtedly change she emphasized.

Allen and City Attorney Carol Duncan have been untangling a web of pay plans, incentives, steps, and other pay enhancement devices incorporated into the city’s pay programs through the years. The task has been daunting, she said.

Two weeks ago, the council voted to increase police officer pay, but the numbers used in that plan may be off by as much as $50,000, she said. The problem isn’t in the money amounts allocated, she said. The problem is a clear plan to implement these raises has not been formulated.

For example, in the police department pay guidelines for employees who are promoted, demoted, or transferred have not been firmly established. There’s no stipulations in place to determine how an employee’s pay will change if they decide to switch departments, Allen said.

The pay increase plan under consideration would add $805,000 this year to the city’s payroll to cover raises for firefighters. It will increase the firefighter budget by 9.3% to about $9.4 million. That increase will steadily climb each year until it reaches $1.9 million more per year by the year 2037, according to the city.

An average firefighter could expect his pay to rise by about $3,800 under the plan as constructed. Others could receive varying increases depending on a number of factors. Until all these former and new pay plans are reconciled, finding the right cost amount will be impossible, Alllen warned.

The proposed non-uniformed plan will $653,178 to the budget this year, and will rise each year as well. It will increase the non-uniformed budget to almost $11.7 million, a 5.9% increase. Employees have been filling the council chambers in recent months to argue and fight for pay increases. A study determined Jonesboro employees are underpaid by about 4% as compared to employees in cities of similar size in the state.

The goal before the next city council meeting is to create a simple to understand step pay plan for the cities nearly 600 employees. Allen and Duncan hope to create a plan with easy to understand policies, practices and procedures, Allen said.

Aldermen will ultimately decide if firefighters and non-uniformed workers get a raise, similar to the one doled to police officers in September, Allen said.  When those raises are considered, a easier to understand pay scale and accurate budget numbers should be calculated, she said.