City Council Overturns Spending Decision for New Pay Plan
Above, Mayor Andrew Halverson has been at odds with the City Council from the start of the embattled city pay plan. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Members of the Stevens Point Common Council overturned a new deal with the Madison-based consulting firm Carlson Dettmann for a new market analysis to be used for the city’s new pay plan.
The current analysis, which was delivered to the city just in time for budget talks last year and only after several months of debate regarding the origin of that information. Charlie Carlson used job salaries from a list of comparable cities to Stevens Point to determine market averages for each position in both the private and public sector. City leaders had for months debated which cities would be considered “comparable” to Stevens Point.
Now, Mayor Andrew Halverson said the information from that list is outdated and needs to be replaced with new numbers at a proposed cost of $5,600. The measure barely passed the Finance Committee at a vote of 3-2, with aldermen Mike Phillips, Jeremy Slowinski and Tony Patton voting in favor, each saying despite flaws it’s a step in the right direction.
The same three aldermen voted in favor of the new agreement during the full Common Council meeting, but they voted against the grain, with the majority of the Council voting against entering into a new contract with Carlson. Most members of the Council said they weren’t convinced Carlson was trustworthy, citing a poor past work experience with his company. Alderman Mike Wiza said after learning Carlson had created recent updated many other pay plans for some of the cities being compared against Stevens Point- all while the Council was debating whether to move ahead with a new pay plan last year- he said the city was duped.
“It seems like he knew that data was old and we’re going to have to redo it anyway, so he just kept his mouth shut and now he’s going to get another $5,600. That concerns me,” Wiza said. “Another thing that concerns me is, we’re going to be dealing with Carlson Dettmann again; a man (Charlie Carlson) who signed a contract to do this and backed out of his contractual obligations. We were told he was no longer going to work with the Common Council even though he was contractually obligated to do so, and now we’re going to enter into a contract with that same company- a company that knew the information he was providing us would soon be outdated.”
Wiza was referring to a May 9 memo sent to the Council by Mayor Andrew Halverson, where council members were told Carlson had decided to no longer work with the city due to thinly-veiled threats of legal action by some on the Council who wanted to know how he obtains his figures.
Halverson’s memo said in part:
“I have had conversations with Charlie Carlson, and he has indicated given the continued specter of legal action, either directly or indirectly from the City, he will no longer be working with us. In addition, disclosure of proprietary information also complications this process at the time. Conversations at this point will need to go through attorneys.”
It was a memo he was called out on by Alderman Randy Stroik, who cited a May 18 City-Times article on the company’s feigned departure.
“We were initially led to believe that Carlson Dettmann walked away from us, and you were quoted in the story as saying that wasn’t true,” Stroik said. “That is was you actually who caused that and just told us that he walked away.”
“Both of us did, pretty much simultaneously, given the threat of a lawsuit,” Halverson said. “He and I agreed it was best to pause until that settled down.”
Stroik said he didn’t like the way the new pay plan had been handled from the start and suggested the city wait until a new mayor would be elected in April. Halverson has already announced he would not seek reelection.
“So what’s the harm in waiting 8 months until a new mayor is seated? Why would we spend this now to have this in place prior to a new administration taking office?” Stroik asked.
“Well, you can go ahead and say no, vote it down, and not spend the $5,600 and have an inaccurate, out-of-date pay plan. That’s your choice, not mine,” Halverson said.
According to city documents, a new pay plan matrix could bring a possible increase of 3 percent to some positions, while more than half of all positions are contractual due to pre- Act 10 union negotiations and were already deemed as being compensated above-average. While employees in those “red-lined” positions are still eligible for promotions, their wages would remain stagnate for at least another 17 years.
City Comptroller- Treasurer Corey Ladick said he’s had “zero input” in the entire pay plan process, but with the new plan already in place- despite the out-of-date numbers- the city is still facing a 2015 shortfall of about $130,000.
“Basically what we do have already is implemented the (employment) steps at a one percent cost of living adjustment,” he said, adding the tax levy cannot be raised next year, so if necessary, some services- to include employee health insurance- may be reduced to make up the shortfall.
Ladick also added it was “still early” in the budget process and the deficit could change, or be erased altogether.
“It’s too early to tell yet,” he said.
“I think this would be a good opportunity for the entire community and our employees to kind of settle down for a bit,” said Alderman Jerry Moore. “To rehash
this, it’s just not the right time. There are problems with it (the pay plan), we know it, but the bottom line is, it’s going to affect our budget directly and we’re facing a real tight budget right now. We have to be very weary of what we do with our cash.”
Stroik said he wasn’t convinced a new pay plan matrix was needed at all. “I don’t think we can fix this just by rerunning some numbers,” Stroik said. “We as a council need to look at it and made adjustments where necessary. I don’t think we need a step on a chart to tell us right from wrong.”