Fort Worth’s general city employees may get 4 percent pay raises

By Scott Nishimura

Fort Worth general city employees would receive a 4 percent across-the-board pay raise – their second increase since 2009 – under a staff proposal that highlights the city’s confidence in its finances heading into the new fiscal year.

City Council members will vote Tuesday on a resolution that acknowledges the city has held the line on expenses, the risk that Fort Worth won’t be able to compete with other similar cities for employees if it doesn’t raise pay, and the intention of new City Manager David Cooke to implement the pay raises.

“We’ve got to be competitive with our peer cities, or we’re going to have real challenges for our organization,” Susan Alanis, assistant city manager, said in an interview Friday.

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The pay raise would go into effect Aug. 23, Cooke said Friday in a report to Mayor Betsy Price and council members.

In addition to the 4 percent, the staff has allocated another 1 percent to address certain jobs that are underpaid and hard to fill, Alanis said.

The staff has built the raises into the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal budget, which Cooke will present to City Council members on Tuesday.

All general employees would be included, except Cooke, who won’t receive a raise, and employees who are already at the top of their pay ranges. Employees who are covered by the city’s police and fire labor contracts would not be included. Police employees, in a four-year contract the council approved in 2013, receive annual pay raises and “step” increases for tenure.

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Alanis said the staff feels confident that it can keep the pay increase in the budget after the next fiscal year, given the growing strength of the economy and the city’s success at holding down expenses.

The staff has said it wants to refine its budget and capital processes to ensure its financial decisions are sustainable over years, and not just a short period.

General employees’ last across-the-board pay raise was 3 percent, in fiscal 2012.

The council had included in the current budget a possible 5 percent increase to be awarded in September of this year if staff could find sufficient savings to pay for it. That 5 percent proposal has now been reconfigured for the new budget to encompass the 4 percent across-the-board raise and the 1 percent pool for specific jobs, Alanis said.

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Cooke, in his report to the council, said the 1 percent would be aimed at jobs “that are difficult to recruit for, and that are compensated at a rate that data suggests is at least 5 percent behind the market.”

The report summarized the city’s efforts to keep costs down, including the net elimination of 116 general employee jobs between fiscal 2010 and 2014. Those eliminations saved $6.56 million annually.

Vince Chasteen, longtime president of a general employees association that is disbanding, praised the city for the raises.

“I think it’s great,” he said Friday. “It’s probably not really what it needs to be, considering the past few years’ history. But it’s getting people a little back to where they should be.”