As plans for the next fiscal year begin to take shape, the City of DeLand is considering raising employees’ salaries to get ahead of the state minimum wage increase. A pay hike, officials said, will also help the city fill vacant positions.
The city has 38 vacancies, city commissioners were told, from a deputy city engineer to maintenance workers.
The DeLand City Commission heard some possible options at a pay-plan workshop May 24.
“As you know, I do exit interviews with every employee that leaves, and 90 percent of them said it’s because of the pay,” City of DeLand Human Resources Director Mark Hayward told commissioners. “As you know, the market is extremely competitive right now.”
There was hesitation from some members of the City Commission, but because Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to incrementally raise the state minimum wage until it reaches $15 per hour in 2026, city staff recognized a need to get going on increases.
The first increase to the state minimum wage will come Sept. 30, when the current minimum wage of $8.65 per hour will increase to $10. From there, it will increase by $1 each year on Sept. 30, until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on Sept. 30, 2026. After that, it will adjust for inflation.
“The city’s current [minimum wage] rate is $11.22 an hour,” Assistant City Manager Mike Grebosz said. “If you really wanted to technically look at this, we potentially could be OK until September 2023. However, there’s a lot of other factors out there in the market we want to talk about, and that’s probably not the most strategic decision, to just sit and wait.”
City staff researched nearby municipalities and counties and found that, while only 20 percent of the City of DeLand’s employees are paid less than $15 per hour, DeLand is in the bottom third in terms of wages, compared to the 13 other jurisdictions examined. The entities studied included Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Volusia County and others.
The proposed pay plan the City Commission liked best would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 on Oct. 1 and provide raises of between $2.01 and $3 per hour for all employees not affected by that increase.
Another proposed plan included $2.01 raises across the board for all employees, but staff feared this could create too many salary-compression problems.
“If you do a flat rate increase, for the most part, the people that are making a lower amount, that’s a higher percentage, and for the people making a higher amount, that’s a lower percentage increase,” Grebosz explained. “You kind of compress the numbers … There could be a morale issue when you don’t have as large or as flexible of a compression gap.”
The morale concern comes from uniformly raising salaries by a set amount. Bringing starting wages closer to that of employees who have worked for a longer period of time could cause upset.
None of this will come cheap, of course. The favored pay plan would increase costs by more than $2 million for the 2022 fiscal year. Over the next five years, the prospective plan would add an additional $18 million to the city’s personnel costs.
And, as City Manager Michael Pleus explained, costs are up for everything — from chemicals to concrete.
“Some part because of COVID, but in large part because of where the industry is at, all of our operating expenses are up,” Pleus said.
457 employees currently on payroll
Citywide total annual payroll $22.6 million
82 full-time employees below $15 per hour
38 open positions currently
Nine months is the average length for an open position to be filled.
One possible solution, DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said, would be to increase property taxes.
“It becomes a vicious circle. If you just try to implement the pay plan, then something’s gotta give on the other side,” he said. “I think it’s a good time to bite the bullet and get this done.”
The city needs more money, yes, but there was still some hesitation.
“Agreed, that is needed,” City Commissioner Kevin Reid said. “But that’s very hard to sign up for year over year.”
The City Commission will have to vote on any pay plans before they go into effect for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The pay-plan vote could come as early as the City Commission’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 7.
The DeLand City Commission meets on the first and third Mondays of each month in DeLand City Commission Chambers at City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
All meetings are open to the public.
The five highest salaries at the City of DeLand:
City manager — $177,000
Assistant city manager — $114,000
Public Services director — $156,000
Police chief — $152,000
Utilities director — $132,000
The five lowest salaries at the City of DeLand:
Maintenance workers — $23,000-$26,000
Custodian — $23,000
Park ranger — $17,000
Source: City of DeLand
To apply for a City of DeLand job, go here: https://www.deland.org/posting/job-opportunities