Blaine council approves 2013 compensation for non-union employees

The Blaine City Council Dec. 20 approved the 2013 compensation plan for all non-union city employees.

Human Resources Director Terry Dussault presented the information to the council. All the non-union employees will receive a 2 percent wage increase. The mileage reimbursement rate will be the 56.5 cents per mile amount that the IRS set on Nov. 21, 2012. They will participate in the LOGIS health care program and the city contribution in 2013 will be $960 per month for all full-time employees who purchase benefits under the city’s cafeteria plan.

Besides their regular vacation hours, Blaine city employees also get nine paid holidays, one floating holiday and an additional floating holiday the day after Thanksgiving.

Councilmember Russ Herbst said he would like to evaluate the city policy of giving non-union employees similar increases to union employees. The increase was 1 percent in 2012.

According to Herbst, he was not saying that the employees do not deserve salary increases. If this was his business and the economy was in a recession, he would prefer no automatic wage increases, but those who do well could earn merit pay, Herbst said.

“I think everybody deserves a raise if they are contributing, but I think when you look at the whole picture as you move through an organization, there’s some people that maybe deserve a little bit more merit pay than the other people,” he said. “That’s just a fact of life.”

Blaine’s total property valuation will be down 9 percent in 2013, Herbst said.

Mayor Tom Ryan said it is a tough process especially if one city gives big raises because then that affects the market.

Ryan thanked Dussault for the work he does.

When asked how much the 2 percent increase impacts the 2013 levy, Finance Director Joe Huss said the amount is about $150,000.

The council approved the 2013 compensation plan on a 6-0 vote. Councilmember Wes Hovland was absent.

After the vote on the compensation plan, Councilmember Dick Swanson made a motion that the city hire an intern for the finance department at an amount not to exceed $15,000 in the 2013 budget.

“I know Joe (Huss) is not going to ask for any more help, but we keep throwing more and more stuff on him for assumption-based budgeting and other things, and I really think there are enough master’s degree programs out there in public administration and business administration that we can probably pick up an intern,” Swanson said.

He alluded to the direction council gave earlier at the Dec. 20 meeting to have city staff identify another $100,000 in potential reductions to the 2013 budget during the first six months of the year.

Swanson was not saying the city manager has to hire a finance department intern. His motion did not propose increasing the 2013 budget by $15,000. The city manager and finance director would have to find a funding source. Swanson just wanted to authorize city staff to proceed with this.

Councilmember Kathy Kolb preferred to have staff research what it could cost to hire an intern for the finance department and bring the information back to council rather than approve a specific amount that evening.

City Manager Clark Arneson agreed with Swanson’s assessment that there are qualified people out there that could fill this role and he said that he and Huss have talked about this in the past.

The finance department has been down one staff member due to disability leave off and on for the past two years, according to Huss.

“Any additional resources would be welcome,” Arneson said.

Councilmember Dave Clark said he would vote against this because he wanted time to get his head around this concept before he signs off on it and he wondered where the city would find the $15,000.

Mayor Tom Ryan agreed with Swanson that more help was needed for the finance department. He and Swanson both stressed that the finance department has been giving the council really good information and has been working hard. They just feel they need another person to help compile the information the council will be requesting.

Councilmember Mike Bourke agreed with Clark’s reasoning.

“I don’t think we should be doing the job of the city manager in hiring people at a city council meeting or even facilitating that,” Bourke said.

If the city manager brought forward a proposal to hire an intern, Bourke would consider it, he said.

Swanson ended up withdrawing his motion.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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