The City of Kodiak has relatively low salaries but remarkably good benefits. That’s the takeaway from Halcyon Consulting, conducted by consultant Jonathan King, hired to review Kodiak’s city employee compensation and compare it around the state. He gave a presentation Tuesday night to the city council.
“So you are not certainly as a community, what we consider to be a salary leader, all right, that’s not what the data indicates,” King said.
King studied 14 different cities around Alaska to compare to Kodiak, among them places like Wasilla, Soldotna, Palmer and Dillingham. Many of these cities have a higher hourly wage than Kodiak. But he says they don’t really compensate much better when you factor in benefits like health and dental insurance.
Retirement benefits were not studied by King since city government employees around the state all have access to the State of Alaska Public Employee Retirement System.
According to King, the take home value at the end of the year is about the same. Insuring a family in Kodiak can be done at almost no cost for city employees; in other communities, monthly premiums deducted from paychecks can be thousands of dollars.
“In your health insurance, you are the only employer in the peer group to require no co-premiums. And if you are an individual with a family, that results in a savings of somewhere between $4000, $6000 a year, compared to many of the other employers that would shift- if we added that $4000 to $6000 in savings, into the effective pay of these individuals… That’s worth $2 to $3 an hour, which would shift a number of these positions,” King said.
Now, that may seem like a great option for many families, but for younger people without dependents it might be less appealing, King said. That’s because they might be looking at take home pay. And among early career police officers, firefighters, and administrative workers, there sure are a lot of younger people without dependents. Kodiak also offers very competitive paid time off, — it’s one of the best cities in the state for vacation days.
So what should the city do? King says that’s a policy call for the city council which commissioned the study to address relatively high turnover in its public sector workforce. King says just boosting wages isn’t necessarily the answer.
“That’s not the takeaway from that study. It’s rarely the takeaway from these studies, but you do have some pockets that I think you need to look at your total package and say, ‘Are we providing what we need to be providing in order to be competitive, and to have people stay here and choose to make this island community their home because we want them to stay?,” King said.
The City Council is meeting again this week to discuss the findings of the compensation study. The full 92-page document can be found here.