City news

Wages for Abilene’s city employees are closer to market rates than originally believed, according to a report presented to the Abilene City Commission at a study session Monday.

“You have been keeping up with the wage system that you have over time, is essentially what this says,” Beth Tatarko, vice president of The Austin Peters Group, told commissioners. “You are not nearly as far behind as you might have thought in certain areas. I think you should feel good that you are keeping up.”

The 53-page preliminary “Classification & Compensation Study” and “Job Description Comments” showed city wages are about $50,000 behind the average of comparable dollars.

The study, which is being funded by both the city of Abilene and the Abilene Public Library, cost $20,050.

The study of the library salaries is expected to be discussed at the next meeting of the Abilene Public Library Board at 4 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Jordan Room.

Wage scale

The study proposes a new wage scale and some adjustments in the minimum and maximum salaries. It also proposed some adjustments in classifications for certain job titles.

“The new ranges, almost everyone is already in these ranges,” said City Clerk Penny Soukup. “It’s only going to effect eight people.”

Finance Director Marcus Rothchild said the proposed changes would have little impact on the 2021 budget.

The city of Abilene has 60 positions but only 56 employees.

A study done in 2006 showed Abilene city salaries $130,000 behind other like cities, Tatarko said.

“The commission choice to move forward with the implementation of those results was because pay needed to be brought up to the market.”

An update in 2009 showed there was a gap of $83,000.

Ten years later the new proposed range adjustment for eight of the city employees would have an impact of $12,708.12.

“That is not nearly what we were talking about before,” Tararko said.

The implementation of a one-time market pay compression adjustment would result in a financial impact of $38,113.70 impacting 50 employees.

The study did show the city of Abilene was falling behind in benefits.

“We’ve seen cities begin to work on their benefits package,” Tararko said.

Abilene lags in the percentage of coverage for health insurance provided to employees. Leave provided by Abilene is exactly on par with peer communities, the study showed.

Abilene city commissioners are compensated $200 a month while the average is $275. Abilene’s mayor receives $250 and the average is $307.

Comparing compensation for elected officials revealed that the average commissioner salary is $200.

Tararko said 18 of 20 wage surveys were received. She said dollars were adjusted based on cost of living.

“Abilene has a slightly higher cost of living,” she said.

Rural water

Rothchild said the city is discussing water rates with the Rural Water District No. 2 board.

He said that Abilene and the water district have a contract through 2038.

The water district that services all of Dickinson County and some of Saline County south of the Smoky Hill River buys water from the city of Abilene at a rate of $1.44 per 1,000 gallons.

Rothchild said that in 2015 the city can begin to “negotiate in good faith” on a rate. The key is determining how much that costs and what is fair.

“To just say we aren’t charging enough, we don’t have a lot to back that up,” he said.

When the water treatment plant was built in 1998, the water district paid for 11.5 percent of the usage which was $900,000.

Electronic sign

The commission approved 5-0 a conditional use permit for an electronic message sign at Lumber House True Value at 1903 N. Buckeye in a special meeting Monday.

Matt Engle, owner of Lumber House, said the sign uses “smart technology” and will automatically dim at night.

Engle questioned why the city’s conditional use permit says “the message change shall occur no less than 15 seconds.”

“That seems like a long time,” said Commissioner Angie Casteel.

Interim City Manager Jane Foltz said that current electronic message center signs change every five to eight seconds in violation of the city’s code and those sign owners will be informed.

“We need to update our code,” Foltz said.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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