Fort Atkinson City Council hears pay study plan

Posted on June 5, 2013 • Posted in News Articles

The Fort Atkinson City Council heard Tuesday how Carlson Dettmann Consulting of Madison will undertake an employee wage classification and compensation study in 2013.

Article by Ryan Whisner, Daily Union regional editor | Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:06 am

Partner and principal consultant Charles Carlson presented a general overview of the firm’s approach to the study during at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

There are two intended outcomes of the study, he noted. The first is to review and update all job descriptions and job functions to ensure that city employees are appropriately classified. Second, it is to review compensation and organizational staffing level to determine whether compensation is internally and externally competitive in the labor market.

The city last completed such a study in 1997.

“The one thing you should want to achieve out of this process is to have a very solid base that is equitable and anchored into the marketplace so you can walk away saying that ‘the way we’re treating employees is fair,” Carlson said. “If we can accomplish that, I think we will have done our job.”

The study’s outcome would be for wages to increase or be frozen until reaching the next pay step. The city’s intent is to not reduce any employees’ pay as it currently stands.

“Nobody likes it, but we tell employees when we do a study, the one thing we can absolutely guarantee from our point of view is that the worst thing that can happen is they will end up making the same amount of money they were making when we walked in the door,” Carlson said.

Fort Atkinson City Manager Evelyn Johnson acknowledged that the process was going to be uncomfortable for all involved.

“This is going to take some real leadership from the council and other leaders in the city,” she said. “To really have something that is successful at the end, we are going to have to consider and look at things closely and trust the process that we are going to go through.”

Johnson reiterated that undertaking such a study is not comfortable for employees.

She emphasized that if council members, supervisors and any employees have questions, they should ask their supervisors or her and continue to have that dialogue through the process.

Carlson Dettmann Consulting of Madison is the same firm Jefferson County utilized to complete a similar pay and classification study in 2012. The firm currently is in negotiations for studies in the cities of Watertown and Jefferson and has worked with Dodge County and the City of Oconomowoc.

“We are not a consulting firm that does projects and hands out reports,” Carlson said. “We’re a consulting firm that gets pay plans adopted. If we start a project, we expect to complete it and expect implementation. The general rule is we don’t want any big surprises as we go through this process, so the more we can stay engaged, I think, that’s a good idea.”

Carlson noted that he has been in the business for 43 years and has seen several iterations of pay determinations and public policy in Wisconsin.

“(Wisconsin) Acts 10 and 32 were fairly revolutionary events in our lives, in terms of how we go about our business,” he said. “For 40 years, wages in the public sector were determined primarily by collective bargaining or the influence of collective bargaining on how we determine even management pay.”

The consultant said the “rulebook” was torn up with passage of Acts 10 and 32.

“When you set pay based on collectively bargaining for 280,000 state employees and you tear up the rulebook, you’ve got an interesting set of circumstances to deal with,” Carlson said. “We’ve got a couple-thousand employers across the state trying to figure out how to proceed now that the responsibility of determining pay primarily rests on your shoulders.”

He stressed that the firm has no predetermined notion of what’s appropriate for the city.

“We are going to try and come up with a system that will be stable. While how we go about our work doesn’t vary, the outcomes do,” Carlson said.

As part of the process, Johnson and the council will be pushed to answer questions that include “What markets do you want to compare yourselves to?” “Where do you want to position yourselves in those markets?” and the more longer-term question from employees, “How do I get a raise in the future?”

Per request, the study is intended to compare the city jobs to private sector jobs where applicable. There also will be data to compare the Fort Atkinson positions to those in other cities.

“In order to have good public service, we have to have good public employees,” he said. “In order to preserve that public service, we have to preserve that employee base.”

In previewing the intent of the study, Carlson emphasized the importance of the council’s input.

“There is no point in us coming back to you with something you are not going to support,” he added.

In other business, the council:

  • Held a public hearing on and advanced the first reading of the rezoning of 1040 Whitewater Ave. from R-1 (single-family residential) to R-3 (multi-family office district).
  • An attempt to suspend the rules and move the ordinance through its second and third readings failed. Requiring four votes to pass, the motion lost with a 3-2 decision. Councilman John Mielke and President Davin Lescohier said they were concerned about ensuring the public had sufficient opportunity to address the issue.
  • Authorized special beer and wine licenses for the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce brat stand on July 26-27 and Rhythm on the River on Aug. 24.
  • Authorized a request by Fat Boyz to hold its annual event behind the property and to block the parking lot and alley on June 29. As approved, the premise description for a liquor license would be changed for the day to allow for alcohol sales within the enclosed outdoor area.
  • Approved a request of 2 Rivers Bicycling and Outdoors to install a bike rack in front of the store at 33 West Sherman Ave.
  • Approved annual renewal for liquor, tavern dance hall and arcade licenses for various businesses for July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
  • Recognized past members of boards and committees with certificates of appreciation. Honored were the following:

Leslie LaMuro, city council, 2011-13; Karen Reinhardt, Cable Television Committee, 2009-13; Jeff Armstrong, Board of Electrical Examiners, 2003-13; Robert Thomas, Board of Electrical Examiners, 2005-13; Thomas Carl, Board of Electrical Examiners, 2008-13; Robert Vincent, Fort Atkinson Historical Society Board, 2007-13; Carol Wanie, Fort Atkinson Historical Society Board, 2007-13; Mark Haubenschild, Dwight Foster Public Library Board, 2004-13; Jeanne Schulenberg, Park and Recreation Advisory Board, 2007-13; Bonnie Hamm, Fort Atkinson Planning Commission, 2010-13; and Mary Zentner, Fort Atkinson Police and Fire Commission, 2003-13.

Original article text can be found here on the Daily Union website.