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City commission to consider pay increases




City employees might receive a belated Christmas present in their paychecks starting in January.

The Hays City Commission will consider giving them a 1-percent merit pay increase at its Thursday meeting. Tenure and job performance are the criteria for the raise, and the established pay ranges for positions will remain unchanged.

The city manager and certain part-time, seasonal and volunteer personnel will not see the pay bump. A 3-percent cost-of-living increase was enacted this year.

The effect of the 1-percent merit pay increase would range from approximately $250 to $900 annually for the individual, depending on the employee.

Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager, said $97,500 for the raises was included in the 2014 budget. The commission still needs to approve the measure.

The raises aim to encourage retention. Aside from occasional problems staffing dispatchers and public works maintenance employees, the city does not have an issue with turnover in its ranks.

"We want to make sure that we do retain our good employees and continue to hire good employees," Dougherty said.

The city conducted a pay and benefits study from December 2012 to March and examined how its compensation package compared to cities and businesses in the region. The survey concluded the city is in the middle of the market, and there is room in the budget to allocate raises.

Future raises are not scheduled and will depend on inflation, revenue, expenditures and retention. The payroll increase is an attempt to maintain the quality of city staff and provide an incentive for them to stay.

"I'm not interested in running to the lowest common denominator here because that's not going to do good for our organization," he said.

The raises also make pay consistent among city employees. Members of the police, firefighters and service unions also will receive the 1-percent merit pay raise next year as stated in the city's contract. Unions represent the majority of city employees.

The city's general fund, which draws most of its money from sales taxes, will cover $61,850 for police, parks, public works and general administration employees' raises.

The enterprise and miscellaneous accounts, which are funded by various taxes and solid waste, wastewater and water fees, will pay $16,900 toward raises for employees at the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the utilities and solid waste departments. The levy fund will pay for $18,750 in benefits.

The pay raises come as the city solicits local entities to donate money so the city can land SkyWest Airlines as Hays Regional Airport's carrier.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chooses the airline, and Great Lakes Airlines has a lower bid than SkyWest. If the DOT asks the city to bridge the gap between bids, the city will have to provide a projected $550,000.

"It's not a zero-sum game here," Dougherty said. "I mean, we have the ability to enact the 1-percent raise and still have the ability to afford the subsidy."