by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sartell City Council voted 3-2 Feb. 25 to give the city staff’s nine department heads salary increases for 2013.
Voting for the increase were council members Amy Braig-Lindstrom, Steve Hennes and Sarah Jane Nicoll. Voting against it were council member David Peterson and Mayor Joe Perske.
The final resolution for the salary increase was suggested by council member Nicoll, who is a member of the city’s personnel committee, along with Braig-Lindstrom and Sartell Administrator Patti Gartland. That committee had studied salaries for department heads in other cities, as well as other employment factors, such as experience and job performance, that might influence salary levels.
Salary adjustments have been more or less level during the past five years for department heads in Sartell. In 2009, there was a voluntary freeze in salary increases as the council agreed that was the right thing to do in light of a serious recession. The nine Sartell department heads are not unionized employees. Many city employees, such as clerical, are members of the Teamsters’ union, and most police employees are members of the Law Enforcement Labor Services Union.
Non-union employees received wage increases as low as 1 percent during the past few years. Records show salaries for the nine department heads remained virtually stagnant since 2008, with, at most, increases of only $2,000 to $3,000 from the total 2008 salaries to the 2012 salaries. During that time, for example, the salary of the public-works director went from $73,900 in 2008 to $76,150 in 2012.
The average amount of wage increases for union employees (both unions combined) in the last three years was 4.3 percent each year, said Sartell Finance Director Mary Degiovanni.
Nicoll said the council should compromise by granting all nine department heads either salary bumps in the same percentages as those received by city union employees or a salary increase as suggested by the personnel committee, whichever is lower. The council, on its 3-2 vote, agreed with that approach. The resultant salaries lie somewhere between union increases and those recommended by the committee.
Council member Steve Hennes said Nicoll’s resolution was a “fair compromise.”
Both Perkse and Peterson said they have misgivings about the salary increases and suggested increases could be phased in gradually over a period of years.
As approved by the council, the salary increases range from 2 percent to 6.3 percent, depending on various factors and step adjustments, Degiovanni said. The 2013 salaries for the following nine department heads are these: deputy clerk $59,800, chief building officer $72,125, public-works director $80,996, assistant public-works director $63,818, police chief $79,028, assistant police chief $73,391, planning and development director $75,837, finance director $88,000 and city administrator $115,600.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.