Alders to vote on “key employee” reclassification, pension-pay bump for certain positions
With almost 20 percent of city jobs vacant currently, alders and city officials are planning to bump pay-pensions to fight the issue.
Yash Roy Contributing Photographer
Two hundred and fifty of the city’s roughly 1500 positions lay vacant right now.
As of Friday, there’s one more: the directorship of Human Resources, responsible for filing such vacancies, is now also vacant after Stephan Librandi’s departure.
Monday evening, the New Haven Board of Alders finance committee unanimously advanced a Mayoral proposal to fight this problem by reclassifying some senior city workers as “key employees” in the city’s employment manual, which allows for a rise in pay and pension benefits. The proposal will now go to the full Board of Alders for a vote on Monday, Oct. 3.
“Time has caught up with the manual,” Librandi wrote in a letter to the Board of Alders. “It is dated and reflects needs from more than a decade ago. This is not the fault of the Board of Alders but rather the lack of any periodic maintenance on the Manual to keep and reflect with current times and trends on the wages and benefits of public management employees for a municipality.”
Currently only department heads, the police chief, fire chief, health director and the corporation council are classified as key employees under the city’s 2011 revision of the employment manual. The new changes will include the chief of staff, budget director, HR director and chief technology officer.
The change will bump the salary range of the budget director, chief technology officer and human resources manager to between $100,000 and $169,000 with the final salary being approved by the Board of Alders. Currently the HR director and Budget director make $111,000 and $129,000 respectively. The Chief Technology Officer role is new, so no information on current salary is available.
By allowing for more flexibility in salary negotiations as well as better pay than before, city Chief of Staff Sean Mattenson hopes that it will be easier for the city to fill key positions.
According to Marchand, the city is currently having difficulties filling senior positions in city government in comparison to the private sector and other cities in the state with better benefits and pay.
Currently, two of the four positions being reclassified — the CTO and HR head positions — are empty.
The City’s HR manager’s salary is currently 30th highest in the state, while the budget director’s is the 27th highest in the state.
“By doing this, we feel it puts New Haven in a better competitive position than the existing salary levels,” Mayoral Spokesperson Lenny Spellier told the News. “A budget director overseeing a $600 million annual budget and an HR Manager overseeing the needs of 1,500 employees are very difficult positions to fill at the current pay levels.”
Mattenson and Librandi further argued that these three positions do equal amounts of work as formal directors in city government. They pointed to increasing sets of responsibilities and coordination in a more interconnected world.
Moreover, Mattenson told alders that classifying these positions as key employees similar to existing key positions in the charter places them “on a firmer footing” making it easier to attract talent and hire workers.
“We cannot try and match private sector salaries especially in a changing world where it is even more difficult to attract and retain city employees,” Mattenson told alders Monday night. “But, we are trying to be as competitive as possible with other municipalities for people who want to work in the public sector.”
At the finance committee hearing, Librandi told alders that when he began his tenure as HR head a decade ago only one job was in the key employee category. Today, there are six and if the new ordinance passes there will now be three more.
The other major change made will be in the pension system for top city employees. Currently, city employees who choose to move up to chief of staff, budget director or chief technology officer actually see a downgrade in their pension since they are no longer covered under the union negotiated City Employee Retirement Fund.
Currently, city employees at these senior positions only receive a 20 percent of their final salary as pension according to Spellier .This change will bump it up to 40 percent, significantly increasing the pension these three positions will receive in the future.
The only caveat is that for all three positions this change will only apply to workers who started in a municipal union job and work up to these positions.
Both Marchand and Spellier do not expect the increase in pension obligations to have a significant impact on the city’s budget even though in years past the city has had to balance maintaining its pension obligations and other city spending.
“There will only be a slight increase to the CERF fund, but the fund already has over 500 members in that it would payout,” Spellier told the News. “The fact it’s for only three positions, and the requirement that they start off in the union and already contributed to the fund would not overly burden the fund itself.”
During the hearing, former Beaver Hills Alder Shafiq Abdussabur raised concerns over an addition to the pension system and asked why these positions could not be transitioned to a 401k or IRA Roth retirement plan.
Marchand told the News that such a transition could be possible in the future but would require unionized city employees to agree to the switch since he does not believe that department heads and other senior city employees would be comfortable on a less secure retirement plan while most city officials are on a pension.
According to Marchand, most alders he has spoken to were supportive of the proposal and he believes it will pass in October.
The New Haven Board of Alders meets on the first and third Monday of every month.