Waynesboro city employees are underpaid, according to a recent study.

During a budget meeting Wednesday night, members of the Wanynesboro City Council were told city employees are underpaid compared to wages of comparable job positions at localities within a 100-mile radius.

According to a classification-compensation study conducted through Paypoint HR, 75% of full-time Waynesboro city job positions are compensated below the market median. Deputy City Manager D. James Shaw and Nichole Nicholson, HR director for the city of Waynesboro, presented the findings to council members.

Comparable localities were selected within a 100-mile radius of Waynesboro based on factors such as cost of living; population; median income; housing costs; and 45 benchmark positions comparable, if not identical, to Waynesboro city job positions and descriptions.

When a city employee leaves, exit interviews are conducted, Nicholson said. The top reasons individuals left city jobs in Waynesboro in the past two years are pay and growth opportunities, he said.

Fiscal Year 2019 saw 15% total turnover across all departments. 31% of all full-time city employees hired in FY 2019 turned over, and 71% of those employees were in public works operations, Nicholson said.

“We’re concerned with what we consider to be inordinately high turnover rates, especially in some departments here in the city, and our ability to track and retain qualified individuals,” Shaw said.

It would cost the city “well over $1 million across all funds” to bring every city employee to market pay level, according to the study. Shaw and Nicholson suggested council approve a new pay structure that is market-based in order to become more competitive.

“I think the value of a study like this, one, is that as we talk about increases, we have guidelines for what’s fair and equitable and reasonable, and that we have a guide for doing these kinds of things even if we can’t do it all at once,” Shaw said. “And, two, it provides us that structure for a good decision.”

Other suggestions discussed Thursday included increasing stormwater fees and sewer rates.

“It’s going to be a tough budget, and there are going to be some tough decisions to make,” Shaw said. “We’ve got miles to go before we rest on this budget.”

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