Last week the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly approved a pay increase for certain borough employees, in addition to retroactively paying them salary differences.
The vote on the matter was a long time coming and the result of a employee classification and compensation study done by Fox Lawson and Associates last May. The assembly accepted the study at that time, but it took a full year to make its way back to the assembly for implementation.
That delay wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the study found that certain borough employees were underpaid. In essence, that meant the borough was knowingly underpaying those staff members for a full year.
That’s why the ordinance approved Thursday night included retro pay, which would offer the salary difference for those employees back to January 1, 2014. Borough Manager Bud Cassidy said the back pay isn’t a bonus – but rather the market wage that borough employees should have been paid.
Karl Short, the finance director for the borough, said the January 1 date was a compromise struck during the assembly’s last meeting. Originally the thought was to pay the employees all the way to July 2013, when the study was accepted.
“It’s been over 31 years since we accepted an outside salary study. We did do the study, it’s been going on now a couple of years, we did try to put it in the budget effective July 1 2013. We’ve worked out problems along the way. Now it’s almost a year later. So I think going back at least until January 1 of 2014 would be the least that we should do. I would love to go back to July 1 but I think January 1 would be a very reasonable goal.”
Assemblyman Mel Stephens was the only dissenting vote on the ordinance, and said it was for one main reason.
“I’ve said it before and I say again I will not vote for any retroactive pay increase.”
Assemblywoman Carol Austerman said she was very much in favor of the retroactive pay because it didn’t make sense to punish already underpaid borough employees for a delayed process they couldn’t control.
“When the borough assembly voted nearly a year ago to implement, and that was after the salary study had already been done, to actually implement the salary study, the intention was that would move forward at a fairly quick pace. And it didn’t. It took almost a year to get in front of us again. And that I truly believe was not at the fault of any of the borough employees. And so I don’t see any reason to punish borough employees by not giving them a salary increase that the borough voted on to move forward with a full year ago.”
Austerman said she thought January was a reasonable date to star the back pay because it is realistically when the implementation should have been done.
Assemblyman Aaron Griffin wasn’t necessarily in favor of the retroactive pay, but also felt pay increases for some staff members were truly needed.
“I am not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to say and not have implementation at all. So I am going to support this tonight, even though I’m not necessarily in support of the back pay. I do belive that our employees are hard-working and they do deserve the pay increases that are stated in the study.”)
The ordinance passed in a 4-1 vote. AssemblymenTuck Bonney and Dave Kaplan were absent during Thursday’s meeting.