Gallatin is moving forward with a comprehensive pay study for its employees while officials also mull giving workers a “sizable” bonus to help with retention.
The Gallatin City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Burris, Thompson and Associates to perform a city employee compensation and classification study for $27,800.
“Our focus with this study is to immediately address the issues we have in our city with pay,” Gallatin Human Resources Director Connie Flood told city leaders last week.
Earlier this year, the city conducted an anonymous employee satisfaction survey which found that of the nearly 300 of its workers who responded, 53.38 percent said they felt the city did not offer competitive wages, according to the results.
The most recent comprehensive salary and benefits study for the city took place in 2014.
“This would kind of be the time to redo (the study) anyway, but with the market conditions as they have been and the competition in the workforce, I think it’s essential that we get this done for our employees,” Mayor Paige Brown told members of the council on Sept. 28.
Officials say they hope to have the new pay study completed by March prior to the start of budget discussions for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Gallatin currently has 413 full-time employees along with nearly 160 seasonal and part-time employees, according to the data provided by the city’s human resources department.
“How long will we be able to keep our employees at the current rates between now and then?” District 2 Councilwoman Eileen George asked about the timeline last week. “That’s what my concern is.”
To help with retention, Brown said she would like to use a portion of the city’s expected American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to give a “sizeable bonus” to its employees for hazard pay.
Gallatin is expected to receive somewhere between $11 million and $12.7 million in ARPA funding, according to the city’s finance department. The total amount being considered for the bonuses is approximately $1.5 million.
“While I view these ARPA funds as something to invest in the future of Gallatin, I can make a very strong case that our employee base is a very big part of that,” Brown said. “It’s really important that we try to do this for our employees (and) I think it will be important for our retention.”
If the city does not get the necessary approvals to classify all of its employees as essential, which would allow them to be paid using the federal funding, Brown said the “worst case scenario” would be the city would pay for the remaining bonuses using the general fund.
Officials have also considered making the bonuses repayable to the city if an employee left within a year, she added.
If approved, the bonuses could be distributed by the end of the year, according to officials.