- Photo by Charles Bruce III
- "New fiscal year, new pay philosophy" originally appeared in the October 2023 finance issue of COMO Magazine
Columbia is an incredible place for families and individuals to thrive, and part of that success comes from being a community with ample employment opportunities. With employers like Veterans United, EquipmentShare, the University of Missouri, and more, the city has fallen behind on providing competitive pay. But, my belief is that the city’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which was approved by the City Council in September and runs from October 1, 2023, through September 30, 2024, will help make the city an employer of choice.
The city’s budget is its most important document. It guides operations that impact every resident and allows the city to prioritize initiatives and projects. The biggest priority for this fiscal year, without a doubt, is our employees. The budget includes around $10 million to fund the first phase of a classification and compensation study that took effect beginning on October 1.
This comprehensive study began in 2021 and collected data for all permanent city positions. It found that city government’s pay range minimums were not market competitive, which we knew we needed to address. The implementation of this study addresses that issue and will help reflect the hard work employees commit to our community, retain hardworking staff, and help recruit new talent. As a result, it is my hope the city will be an employer of choice.
The largest change as part of this study is in our pay philosophy. In the past, the city has hired employees at a base pay that was below market value with the goal of employees working up to market value over a period of several years. However, city leadership recognized we could not remain competitive using this philosophy in today’s job market.
Following the implementation of the study, we are hiring at a base pay of approximately 6.4 percent above market value. Beginning October, 1 salaries for positions within the city were adjusted to reflect this change.
I have a few examples from positions that have made local headlines. The pay for new officers at the Columbia Police Department increased from $51,084.80 to $57,200 annually. For refuse collectors, the starting pay was $35,360 annually while the new minimum reflects a 19 percent increase to $42,099.20. In addition to that annual salary, another $4 per hour has been added to their salary to mitigate the loss of “add pay” the city was providing on top of their base pay.
These are just a few examples of the increases some positions will see with this first phase of the study. Establishing pay ranges that lead the market sets the groundwork for a pay structure that will benefit all employees. Moving forward, the city will implement the second phase of the study with a focus on addressing compression.
All of this is a way to thank our employees who work tirelessly to fulfill the city’s vision of making Columbia the best place for everyone to live, work, learn, and play. As we kick off our new fiscal year, our employees have my deepest thanks for their patience throughout this process, and our residents for allowing us to recognize the great work of our employees. I look forward to what we can accomplish, working together, in the next fiscal year.