Other cities also bumping salaries
Charleston leaders recently passed an across-the-board pay raise for all city employees, joining other West Virginia municipalities that have given their workers an increase.
The 3 percent raises that went into effect Oct. 7 will boost the paychecks of about 800 city workers. They'll cost about $768,000.
Charleston had been unable to give pay raises the past few years. The raises were the first for Charleston employees since July 1, 2009.
"It's about time," Mayor Danny Jones said when the raises were approved. "We want to make sure our city employees feel appreciated."
So how are other surrounding and comparable towns doing?
Are their budgets healthy enough to provide raises for employees, too?
"Last year was a tough year for the economy everywhere," Lee said. "Everyone got together last year, and we decided the city couldn't afford to give a raise."
However, the approximately 300 city employees received a 2.5 percent pay hike for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1, he said. The total increase in benefits and salaries cost the city $509,516.
One group of South Charleston employees was not included in the pay hike, Lee said.
About 30 firefighters did not receive a raise because the city is in the process of changing their pay scale, he said.
"And the union voted to accept that," Lee said.
Their pay scale will be increased to come in line with what city police officers are being paid, he said.
This has been the first across-the-board raise passed by council in a few years, Mayor Dick Callaway said.
"We've had problems with the local economy for the past few years," Callaway said.
An increase in business and occupation tax on the retail side of the equation has allowed the city to increase salaries for its employees, he said.
"We've had a lot of construction lately, and we're seeing some smaller car lots pop up, too," Callaway said.
He was unsure exactly how many years St. Albans employees had gone without a raise before their most recent bump. He was also unsure exactly how much the most recent raise cost the city.
Callaway was to provide figures on the cost to the Daily Mail but did not return calls on the matter.
About 250 city employees saw a bump in their paychecks.
Workers with the city's Utility Board, Parking Authority and Board of Parks and Recreation Commission also received 2 percent raises. Those agencies funded their increases out of their own budgets, Moore said.
Morgantown employees have received a raise every year for the past several years, Moore said. During fiscal year 2010-2011, the city could afford to give only a 1.5 percent pay hike.
But city leaders believed Morgantown could afford to increase employees' salaries by a bit more during the current fiscal year.
"I think this year's raise was fair and appropriate," Moore said.
He said city employees in Morgantown didn't leave their positions in search of other work when the city could afford only 1.5 percent.
That's because benefit packages and city's practice of offering pensions helps to retain employees even when raises can't be given.
"Of course there are exceptions when cities are in layoff mode or furlough mode," he said. "That damages employees' morale.
"But generally speaking turnover rate is low for cities."
For example, Morgantown's turnover rate is generally around 7 percent, Moore said.
However, city leaders are looking at enacting an increase this fiscal year despite the fact that the budget went into effect on July 1.
The move could help bring Parkersburg's employees pay rates in line with other cities in the state. Staff members are conducting a pay study, he said.
Parkersburg police officers are paid about $2 less an hour than officers in comparable cities, Newell said. He will recommend a $2 per hour increase for about 65 police officers in the coming weeks.
That would cost the city about $351,000 a year and amount to about $4,000 more per year for officers, he said.
City staff and council members also will look at the cost of raises for all city employees in the near future.
"We have to take this one step at a time," he said.
The increase for city police officers will help with both retention and recruitment, Newell said. The city along the Ohio River has a hard time keeping officers because neighboring cities in Ohio pay about $4 more per hour, he said.
Cities in Ohio can charge an income tax and therefore afford to pay officers more, Newell said.
That means officers often are hired in Parkersburg, work there for a year to become fully trained, and then move to city departments in Marietta or Belpre, Ohio, for higher wages, he said.
Washington County, Ohio, also pays its deputies more than they can make in Parkersburg, Newell said.
"They (officers) can take these jobs in Ohio and they don't even have to move," he said. "They can just drive across the river to go to work."