Black Mountain council and staff work to increase employee wages, implement pay study

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

Workers and town staff in Black Mountain will likely see a pay increase in the coming year. 

According to Josh Harrold, town manager, who recommended a pay increase of 5.75% for town employees, increasing pay has been supported by Town Council. 

Town manager Josh Harrold (right) announced the town's intent to increase employee wages through a pay study. The move has been supported by Town Council.

"Employee pay is the most important item on council's mind as well as mine," Harrold said in an email to town staff. "Relief is coming!"

The council agreed to the recommended pay increase, deciding on an even 6%. Harrold said a pay study is also in the process of being budgeted for the upcoming year, estimated to cost roughly $10,000.

Mayor Larry Harris said the 6% pay adjustment falls in line with neighboring municipalities in Buncombe County. He said an outside firm will conduct the pay study to give the town a perspective of how to make adjustments for specific positions based on neighboring towns such as Weaverville, Woodfin and Biltmore Forest. 

"The objective of the study is to make sure each position in each department has a competitive wage structure from top to bottom," Harris said via email. " Our hope is to use the same firm that recently completed a wage and salary study for the town of Weaverville."

Black Mountain Mayor Larry Harris agreed with Town Council on supporting an increase to town employee wages as well as the pay study.

Currently, Harris and the council members are compensated monthly at part time wages. As mayor, Harris makes $9,339 a year, compared to the average council member pay of $6,342.

For full department heads and managerial staff, Harrold holds an annual salary of $129,125. Police Chief Steve Parker is salaried at $88,000, Planning Director Jessica Trotman at $86,636 and Public Works Director Jamey Matthews at $84,859.

An average of Black Mountain Police salaries, listed in the town's records, comes out to $53,000. For the Fire Department, an average comes to roughly $43,000. 

Steve Parker, the chief of police, said pay discrepancies stem from pay compression. He said a new officer could make only a few thousand per year less than an officer with five years experience due to local incentive programs.

"We have a competitive salary for starting officers," Parker said. "It's not the best, but it's competitive."

Harrold hopes to begin the pay study this summer, estimating the study to be concluded in roughly three months. 

"The pay study will focus on the local market and the local governments we compete with for employees," Harrold said. "Town Council is very supportive of these increases."

The pay study could account for "quite a few" salary adjustments, Harrold said. 

Harrold thanked town staff for their hard work, saying the employees are the most important asset the town has. Harris agreed, saying along with the council, he hopes to offer fair and competitive wages to town employees.

"This is our number one priority in our budget discussions and our number one priority when we met in March for a review of our strategic plan," Harris said. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.