City Payout

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

When facing the issue of how many jobs exist in the city structure, Selma may be taking the stance of “better safe than sorry.”

Selma typically employs more people than cities of similar size, according to a survey of such cities.

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The proposed payroll budget for 2005-2006 lists more than 400 jobs.

According to Selma City Councilman Reid Cain, that has been the case for some time.

“We did a study in 2004 and found that Selma was 100 employees greater than our peer group,” Cain said.

However, that may be partly due to the different hats city employees are asked to wear in other places.

“In some of the other cities, the treasurer and the city clerk are the same person,” Cain said.

Selma, with a reported population of 20,512, is budgeted for 430 city employees for the current fiscal year. However, not all those position are filled.

“The last information I received a couple of months ago showed there were 356 employees,” Cain said. “In October 2004, there were 360. So the number of employees has not necessarily declined. We were supposed to have lost 34 people from the 2004 fiscal year to the 2005 fiscal year. Some positions may have been lost, and that just means others were created.

“Not all the positions are filled, but those positions are available in the budget.”

The total payroll for the city comes to almost $8.5 million. That does not take into account items like vehicle allowances and other benefits that bring the total budget to more than $10.6 million.

Enterprise, located in Coffee County about 30 miles west of Dothan, has a reported population of 21,178. The city employs 302 employees and has a current annual payroll of $7.4 million.

According to Enterprise human resources director Kelly Speigner, the salaries are competitive, but there is room for improvement.

“I feel they are. I feel we could always do better,” she said. “But they’re competitive.”

According to Speigner, the increase or reduction of jobs does not entirely depend on the number of residents. The city adds positions as needed.

“That’s going to depend on each department,” she said. “There are certain standards. With the fire department, for example, each station services a certain number of citizens. The police are the same way. The sanitation department is the same – it all depends on how many trashcans they have to empty.

“There’s not a rule that says if the city grows by this percentage, we’ll add this many jobs,” Speigner said. “There’s no ratio there.”

Enterprise is also on a merit system that determines the pay scale of each job.

“There are different grades, and each position is assigned to a pay grade,” Speigner said. “There are different steps, and there is an increase (in pay) after an annual evaluation moves someone up one step.”

Selma’s system of determining salaries is more subjective, according to Cain. The council ultimately gives the thumbs up on salaries of employees, but the top official in the city considers the figures first.

“The mayor is in charge of city operations,” Cain said. “Department heads make the request to the mayor. Then he approves it, and it’s placed before the council for final approval.”

Mountain Brook, located in Jefferson County – one of the most prosperous in the state – has a population of 20,604.

The city has 230 employees and an annual payroll of $11.5 million, according to director of finance Steve Boone.

Like Enterprise, the change in population size is not a major factor in the city’s personnel decisions.

“We’re not really growing that much here,” Boone said. “We’re landlocked, so most of our needs typically come from attrition.”

Granted, Selma’s demographic and location are much different than either of the other two.

With that in mind, Reid thinks the city is right where it should be.

“I think (the employees) are more than adequate for our citizens’ needs,” Reid said.