Saluda works to bring salaries up to study standards

Published 5:42 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saluda officials met in a special meeting March 1 to discuss a personnel management survey conducted earlier this year to determine if employee salaries are competitive with similar areas.

Mayor Fred Baisden said the Saluda Board of Commissioners included $4,500 in this year’s budget to pay for the study, which hadn’t been conducted since 2002.

“We felt like it was important to get a benchmark as to where we are compared to what the recommendations might be,” he said. “It’s been nine years since we’ve even looked at it.”

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Baisden said the study confirmed three employees fell below a standard minimum set by the survey. He said two others were maxed out in their salary potential based on the 2002 numbers but fell back into range under new cost of living versus salary standards.

Saluda employs 11 employees through city hall, the police department and the water and sewer department.

Baisden said while the cost of living has risen steadily over the past decade, past Saluda leaders had not kept up with regular wage increases. He said in the past it was determined the town could not afford to increase salaries.

He said while the town has not lost any employees based on salary concerns, he felt it was important for city leaders to know where their wages stood compared to other areas.

“If you keep your wage structure updated based on what the typical cost of living is or what your using as a marker then you wouldn’t have to do a full-blown survey,” he said. “You would simply keep up with your increases so you can remain competitive and be able to keep employees from going to the next town over for 50 cents more an hour.”

The salary grade suggested by surveyors covers 17 steps, included within a recommended minimum and a recommended maximum for each city position. Baisden said cities want their employees’ salaries to fall somewhere in the middle of those 17 steps so as to not max out their wage potential but also meet cost of living increases each year to the best of the town’s ability.

Baisden said the city hopes to bring all employees within the new scale.

“The wage scale would not have been as far off had they been upgraded little by little over the years but it had not been updated,” Baisden said. “Because we’re using one that has never been upgraded we’re having to try and bring them up to today’s dollars.”

Because Saluda is so small, many employees multitask, which throws additional factors into the mix. Baisden said city leaders plan to further review the submitted data in preparation for their budget workshops.