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Election 2017 Question of the Week: Employee compensation

August 18, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. As you review the races, please note that Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections. This means all registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.

The sixth Question of the Week is: The city manager has set a staff compensation goal at the 75th percentile for comparable government positions. What is your opinion on the benchmark? What is your opinion on current total city employee compensation, i.e. wages and benefits - too high, just right or too low?

MAYOR'S RACE:

- Joe Coviello: People are the city's most valuable asset. The 75th percentile should not be our only benchmark. The city should focus on where they are losing their employees to. Look at the type of compensation and benefits that are attracting our qualified people. This will establish our benchmark. Once we gain insight into that marketplace we need to match that number so we stay competitive and attract and retain the best personnel. I want the best people working for the City of Cape Coral to fulfill our full potential.

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- Derrick Donnell: Public employees in every capacity are underpaid and their benefits continue to be scrutinized. It is unfortunate that those with a different opinion often single out the minimal number of employees at the top of the range while leaving most employees, whose range is at average or below average, absent from the conversation. Some even talk about leadership, yet balk at the city manager's target of - not the top - but the 75th percentile. I support his goal. The comprehensive employee benefits study that was completed clearly shows that the total compensation for the majority of our employees is too low.

* * *

- Rana Erbrick: The compensation study showed where deficiencies were and what the market for like positions was offering. It showed that, yes, we needed to do better for our employees. However it's a balancing act. We must pay our employees for their hard work, skills, and training while ensuring that we do not burden the backs of our citizens. I am for seeking ways of continuous policy review that ensures that we as a City remain competitive and fair to our employees as long as it is sustainable.

* * *

- April Freeman: I feel we should strive as a city to always do better. I'm not a fan of benchmarks. In my opinion, current wage compensation and benefits are too low. They should be in balance with cost of living increases. This is how we will recruit, hire and retain a talented and loyal workforce.

* * *

- Michael D. Hollow: The more important and easier determining factor regarding wages is turnover. How long are people staying as a city employee prior to leaving. Is the issue in pay disparity around year 10 or year 1 for example? On the exit interviews are they indicating they are leaving because of pay? Employees want to feel a sense of security, comfort, part of a team where they can be heard. The cost to constantly replace positions is far costlier in the long run.

As a Retired Public Servant, I can assure you it wasn't the money, it was about the little things.

* * *

- Kevin Koch: Response not received by deadline.

* * *

- Daniel James Sheppard III: No, I am not in favor of the formula they want to use. The City Manager should be more concerned with performance and accountability. I see a very well paid upper management, but some departments lacking in performance, with no accountability and I also see hard working city employees not being paid a fair wage. Why the big imbalance in wages and benefits? We need to respect all of their value and importance to our city. We must lookout for each other as a Community, and that's how we will win. No more special groups. No more "us," and "them."

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DISTRICT 1

- Jim Burch (Incumbent): Mr. Burch has withdrawn from the race; he is no longer running.

* * *

- James Frederick Foraker: Very simply I want the best for the city. If you hire the best, train them and take care of them the employees will take care of the city. Quality employees deserve to be compensated for their work. By raising the wages and benefits to a higher level services will also reach a higher level. The public will reap the benefits of a more professional workforce. More commercial development will offset the cost. You get what you pay for.

* * *

- John Gunter: I would be in favor of this program if it is equally applied to the rank and file employees. Also, we need to establish guidelines to ensure accountability for all positions. I know the police & fire department have had a retention issue that needs to be addressed. One example is the city spends thousands of dollars for training these employees, and since their benefit package is less then other departments they go elsewhere. Subsequently, we have paid for another organization's training, and we have nothing to show for our investment. I feel if we have a competitive benefit package for our employees it will cost the city less in the long run.

* * *

- Graham Madison Morris: Ever since the beginning of my time being involved in Cape Coral local government I have put in the hours upon hours of time that is so required to understand the public employment aspect and issues of our city that we have. I do NOT believe we should ever aim for blanket solutions. That's taking the easy way out and we all know well what that typically yields as result. We should recognize the dynamics and specific differences that exist for public employment. My philosophy is if you pay someone fairly, you activate their initiative to do the best work they can on a daily basis - that is what this city, its citizens, and its employees deserve.

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DISTRICT 4

- Jeffrey Alan Jones: If the city manager sets forth a goal of 75th percentile in my opinion is not only needed but should lean towards a requirement. In other words, if you want to retain or even recruit perspective employees, for different positions, a midpoint salary must be in place. Market data suggests the salary range from the percentiles should be adjusted annually for positions are established. Wages and benefits, in my opinion, are (too low) comparing to other municipalities similar size of Cape Coral. Additionally, if Cape Coral had in place a broader salary range employees with years of service (longevity) could retain those employees instead of losing them.

* * *

- Richard Leon (Incumbent): The past four years the council has worked closely with staff to make wages competitive with like cities across the state. While I have been a voice that asked to take pause in how fast we get to the 75th percentile, I agree with the methodology of the pay.

* * *

- Jennifer I. Nelson: Staff compensation at 75% of the range in salary and our benefit packages are competitive with similar cities of our size and demographic. I support our city manager's, unions', and council's methodology that encompasses market analysis, updated ranges, and a comprehensive study of benefits and wages. This helps create a consistent standard that is fair and objective creating a cohesive landscape for budgeting, morale, and overall well-being of our employees. The average cost to train a police officer is approximately $145,000. Without a consistent comprehensive market analysis that keeps us competitive, we could lose newly trained officers and gain the costly expense of turnover.

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DISTRICT 5 (General Election ballot only)

- James Schneider: The pay scale raises for our city employees vary based on which union the employee belongs to, such as the fire, police, general, blue/white color, step programs and 3-5% increases built in through negotiations or non bargaining increases. Now, are they high enough? Not in my personal opinion. Opinion based on the current size of this city and its increasing growth for their work load in comparison to others. Reviewing the salaries of various employees, we need to be in the 80% plus range to compete for quality employees. Now, where to cut costs to make this happen? A fiscally savvy council can find it.

* * *

- Dave Stokes: Most employees (non-management) pay scales are set by using comparable cities. For instance when negotiating firefighter/paramedic pay, you would find a comparable department in number of employees, city/county size, emergency call volume, comparable skills (Advanced Life Support, Dive Team). You would then negotiate a pay and compensation agreement that was within the range of your comparable cities/counties, while taking into account the available funds for salaries and benefits in the City. If we want to be able to recruit and retain good employees we must offer an attractive pay and benefits package.

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DISTRICT 6 (General Election ballot only)

- John Karcher: A fair salary and benefit structure is imperative to attracting quality new hires and keeping valued employees. New hire salaries should never equal or surpass that of experienced employees. City workers have told me that many are below the 75th percentile. Weighed against costs of hiring and training replacements, it's more beneficial to retain experienced employees.

Citizens deserve a quality government. Cape Coral needs to do their part by ensuring wages and benefits are competitive. City employees deserve fair salaries.

When elected and I will have access to specifics and will make it a priority to looking into the details.

* * *

- Rick Williams (Incumbent): The 75th percentile represents a competitive benchmark where we feel we can retain our best employees. It is always contingent on resources, which were scarce during the recession, and all our employees had to forgo pay increases for years. Even though we have been trying to restore pay equity with other municipalities, many of our employees are still below the 75th percentile. For example: When we hire a police officer, we must invest about $60,000 each in additional training. If their pay proves to not be competitive and they go elsewhere, it is very costly to replace that officer. Since we started this program, employee attrition rate has declined-a sign that our compensation is becoming more competitive.

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Important dates

PRIMARY, Sept. 12, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes - Closed Aug. 14

* Early Voting (primary election) -Sept 5-9;

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- GENERAL, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes, Oct. 10

* Early Voting (general election), Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1-4

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- Voter registration:

Applications are available online at www.leeelections.com, at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3 A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.

 
 
 

 

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