City Manager Chris Workman speaks during a recent Arbor Day event at Skirvin Park. The Philomath City Council Monday night discussed specifics of a new city manager's contract that has been proposed. The Finance and Administration Committee will take up the matter at a meeting later this month. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath City Council issued pay raises to nonunion and administrative personnel, ratified a collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents police officers and tabled a discussion on a proposed restructuring of the city manager’s employment contract during a meeting Monday night at City Hall.

The proposed pay raises followed the city’s hiring of an outside independent consultant to perform a compensation analysis, including a pay equity study and market comparison of salaries.

A salary grading process and job description updates ultimately led to the city’s development of a proposed salary schedule, which among other things aims to have a positive impact on recruitment and retention.

“What we found is that most of the management positions were well under the market,” City Manager Chris Workman said, adding that most non-management positions were within an acceptable 10% of the market. “We recognize the public perception that management at cities and local government specifically are inflated and they’re too high and everybody gets overpaid but the reality is, when we had an independent third-party HR (human resources) consulting firm do the analysis, that turned out to not be true.”

The proposed salary schedule featured specific strategies with each position’s grade to result in higher pay for most but at the same time would lessen the impact on the city’s budget.

Beyond the updated salary schedule, the council’s approval also awarded a 4% cost-of-living adjustment for those employees and managers effective July 1 and then 1.5% to 3.5% in 2024 and 2025 depending on consumer price index numbers.

On the city manager contract renewal issue, Workman requested that the council consider a number of amendments. Based on a recommended pay increase for Workman out of the third-party market analysis, the budget would be negatively impacted. As a result, Workman suggested a reconfiguration of the salary schedule and implementing pay increases over the next several budget cycles instead of all at once this year.

In relation to his willingness to salary increases over time, Workman requested a “signing bonus” of 3% of the new agreed-upon salary, which would amount to $4,175.

“I love it here and I’m not planning to go anywhere else but I also want to be paid fairly and equitably compared to the market,” said Workman, saying that he’s not using Philomath as a career stepping stone.

Various other amendments were also proposed in areas such as termination of employment and severance provisions.

“I’ve been here for nine years … I’m committed to the city and intend to be here for a lot longer,” Workman said. “At the same time, I’ve had a few scares in this nine years and I can be very blunt here — I’ve been one election away from not being the city manager a couple of times and I would argue that it was not anything I did other than following the direction of the council that was in place at the time.”

Workman, who called the situation “unnerving,” said he feels there should be a financial implication if a situation comes up in the future with the council either asking him to resign or terminating him for no cause. In his proposal, Workman asked for a lump sum cash equivalent of 18 months if those circumstances materialize, in addition to compensation for all accrued vacation time, unused executive leave and half of any unused sick leave.

Councilors had several comments with various concerns, including the 18-month severance package and the signing bonus, and ultimately decided that a closer look at the details would be needed. Councilor Matt Lehman later made a motion to move the matter to the Finance and Administration Committee “where there can be some opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about a couple of items that we need to have in here like a buyout.”

Lehman had suggested that to protect the city, the contract should include a buyout clause. Something like that would come up if a city or county, for example, lured Workman away with a bigger salary. With a buyout, the hiring entity would be required to pay Philomath a specific amount of money to cover the financial impact of a city that just lost its city manager.

The city’s online calendar updated Tuesday shows a Finance and Administration Committee meeting has been scheduled for 4 p.m. May 22.

Earlier in the evening, councilors unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement with the Philomath Police Personnel Association, the union that represents police officers. The approved salary schedule’s steps for 2023 are 5% apart and range from $4,864.60 to $6,519.03 per month. Police recruits are on a two-step salary schedule that pays $4,632.95 to $4,864.60. The agreement cites 1.5% to 3.5% increases in 2024 and 2025.

Bargaining with the union that represents Public Works employees continues with a meeting scheduled for June 7.

The council also adopted a revised employee handbook to reflect changes to the city’s practices, align with collective bargaining agreements and comply with state and federal employment law. The employee handbook had last been updated in 2005.

City Recorder Ruth Post shows councilors an example of signage that will go on properties to notify the public of an active land-use application. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In other news from the May 8 meeting:

• Following a public hearing, the council unanimously approved changes to the city’s development code to expand notification procedures related to land-use applications. Among the changes will be the posting of signage on the appropriate properties where the public can find more information. No residents testified at the public hearing.

• The council’s approval of a consent agenda included Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission liquor license renewals for the following: Philomath Towne Pump, Ixtapa Restaurant, Jona’s Market, Philomath Market, Main St Market 6 (Exxon), Reliance Petroleum (Chevron), The Meet’n Place, Eats & Treats Café, Vinwood Taphouse, Dollar General Store, The Dizzy Hen and The Woodsman.

• The council approved a memorandum of understanding to join with Benton County in an organized effort to effectively respond to homelessness.

• The council recognized and applauded Philomath Police Chief Ken Rueben for receiving the President’s Award, a prestigious honor he was given at the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference on April 7.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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