Black Mountain council member, town manager speak on new pay study

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Piedmont Triad Regional Council Management Analyst David Hill presented the pay study to the Black Mountain Town Council Jan. 9.

Black Mountain Town Council voted unanimously Jan. 9 to approve a new employee pay plan following a presentation by Piedmont Triad Regional Council Management Analyst David Hill.

Council member Pam King said the study came about after last year’s council retreat.

“Staffing surfaced early in terms of being a priority that we needed to address,” King said. “Not only salaries, but the pay grades were out of whack and also the number of positions. Our staff capacity was maxed out.”

Town Manger Josh Harrold said the budget for this project was $10,000, and his role was making sure the consultant stayed on task and budget and within the time frame.

King said it was important to find a consultant to do a study rather than simply giving raises because it is important to address the underlying issues.

“You can’t just start willy nilly giving people raises and whatnot without addressing the pay grade issues and so on,” King said. “All the levels have to be addressed at the same time to keep it all fair.”

During the meeting, Hill said Black Mountain had a relatively young workforce. He said a “mature workforce” would be considered anywhere from eight to 10 years on the job, while Black Mountain has an average workforce tenure of 6.73 years.

Hill compared Black Mountain with several peer municipalities in the area and said he found that while the town fell behind in pay in certain jobs, Black Mountain was ahead in others.

He said he conducted surveys of each employee in the town to find a comparable position in each municipality.

For his recommendations, Hill advised the town to make the differential from one pay grade to the next 5% and the pay range to sit at 50%. There are currently no position with a differential pay grade of 5% and very few with a pay range sitting at 50%.

In order to implement all of Hill’s recommendations, the town’s budget will need to increase by $360,593. To immediately implement the study as the council voted to do, the town will need to find around $150,000.

Harrold told Black Mountain News that while the town originally planned to use money from the fund balance, he was able to find the funds elsewhere.

“Luckily, I think for us, we’re in a situation this year where we’ve had vacancies throughout the year,” Harrold said. “Staffing vacancies that we’re going to be able to cover with vacant salaries that haven’t been paid.”

Harrold said he could not yet say where the funds will come from for the full amount needed each year, but the town should know within the next few months.

King said she was not surprised by the results of the study. She said while no town employee has ever complained to her, she noticed the issues herself and wanted to do something about it.

In the meeting, Hill said the town should conduct pay studies more frequently, and King told Black Mountain News she agreed.

“The number is big, there’s no way around it,” King said. “To get things where they should be is big and we will have our work cut out for us and to make that work going forward, but if you let things slide for a long time then they get worse and worse.”