Council Mulls Employee Compensation, Increase to Contractors

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) questions City officials on the fiscal year budget.

Most civilian employees of the City of San Antonio will receive an increased cost-of-living wage boost, according to the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. Health care premiums for those employees are also expected to remain flat.

On Wednesday, Council will discuss a number of proposed budget amendments brought forth by members over the summer, including a request from Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) to increase district Council aide budgets.

Council will vote on the $2.9 billion budget next week on Thursday, Sept. 12, after several weeks of department presentations and discussion.

Roughly 5,200 civilian employees will be on the citywide Step Pay Plan next year. The plan is designed to increase wages each year (or “step”) over seven years, depending on the rank of an employee. Nearly 3,000 professional and managerial employees will receive 2-4 percent wage increases based on performance.

For the past several years, the budget has included a 1 percent cost-of-living increase. This year, City staff proposes a 3 percent increase for Step employees and for those who receive performance pay. Airport and Park police would receive a 4 percent increase.

But some employees that have worked for the city for more than a decade reached the top “step” of pay increases in 2010, Human Resources Director Lori Steward told Council. And increasing the minimum wage over the past years has created wage compression, she said, where new employees were making as much or nearly as much as tenured employees.

That created “moral issues” and “confusion” among new City employees, Steward said.

2020 will be a year of transition for the Step Pay Plan, Steward said, while her department works toward “a fair, affordable, and sustainable pay plan.”

City rules allow each Council member to have a maximum of seven contracted employees on staff that they can pay as they see fit, but budget allocations to each district don’t allow for adequate wage increases for those Council aides, Treviño said Tuesday as Council considered next year’s budget.

The proposed 2020 budget increases the total Council aide budget for each of the 10 districts and the mayor’s office by $263,274; that’s $23,934 additional aide funding for each office. The total budget for fiscal year 2019 was $489,505.

“It’s at the discretion of the Council member” how many aides a Council member employs, and how much they are paid, Deputy City Manager María Villagómez said. The proposed budget increases the maximum annual salary for Council aides to $100,000 from about $94,000.

In 2017, the Council voted to increase the number of full-time equivalent contractors offices can hire to seven from six. It’s up to Council members to decide if they want to split a contractor position into two, part-time positions, Villagómez said.

Each Council office has one, full-time secretary who is a City employee.

Treviño wants to increase aide funding by $1,305,426; that’s more than $118,600 for each office. Council aides work long hours – often on the weekend – and perform similar work that City employees do, Treviño said. They should receive “equal pay for equal work.”

Councilman John Courage (D9) expressed interest in finding out if more could be done to compensate Council aides who, as contractors, do not qualify for health care or other benefits that City employees can access.

The mayor’s office also has Council aides, but staff includes four additional City employee positions.

Besides Treviño’s proposal, there are several other budget requests to consider Wednesday and next week, Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Rivard Report after the meeting, and it will be up to the Council to decide which get funded.

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