West Chester Twp. trustees have approved a pool of money to give non-union employees merit raises this year, but individual pay hikes won’t be awarded until the summer.
Every year the trustees take a percentage of the total payroll — this year it is 3.5% — for non-contractual employee raises. The $155,518 will be divided amongst the employees based on performance reviews, and $36,400 is already earmarked for part-time firefighter and fire inspector raises.
No employee can receive more than a 4% increase and since not everyone will get the maximum increase, township Administrator Larry Burks told the trustees the actual cash outlay will likely be lower.
Last summer township Assistant Administrator Lisa Brown and other directors received a total of $27,272 in merit pay. Brown was the only person to receive the total 4% out of that group, the majority received 3.5%.
Police Chief Joel Herzog, who was under investigation over complaints some of his staffers made about him, did not get a raise and still earns $111,257. An outside investigator ultimately found Herzog should not face disciplinary action but some of his actions were not appropriate.
Burks’ raise is given separately and is not part of this pool of money. Last year the trustees gave Burks a 3% raise or $4,171, bringing his annual salary up to $143,221. Traditionally the administrator receives a raise in March.
Trustee Mark Welch told the Journal-News officials need to run their business just like the private sector, which includes raises.
“Even though we are a government entity we still compete for talent,” Welch said. “We have to pay wages that are competitive. If we have people that are high performers, just like in a corporation, if you have a high performer and this person is doing an outstanding job for you, you want to reward them.”
In January the trustees approved about $51,000 over two years to give 24 non-union employees raises. Those increases came after the township performed an in-house wage study, comparing the township’s pay ranges to other governmental entities and the private sector.
Officials say the township is facing numerous retirements in coming years and a market in which fewer people are seeking public service jobs.
“We want to make sure our staff are getting the wages they deserve based on the private sector,” Trustee Ann Becker told the Journal-News. “So that we continue to have people that want to be involved in public service. The public service industry is not always easy work, there’s a lot of expectations from our community which are warranted. We want to have high quality people to fill those roles.”
After the study Brown said the township had anecdotal evidence an adjustment to the minimum range was warranted. The township has budgeted about $23.5 million for wages in 2021.
“The intent behind the study wasn’t to give some big, across-the-board raise,” Brown said. “We specifically looked at non-director and pretty much non-supervisory positions, to ensure those positions are fair and comparable. Those are our hardest positions to fill and those are people we expect the most from, they do a lot of that behind the scenes work that you don’t see.”
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