City council votes down pay hike

A Seymour parks and recreation employee will not receive a mid-year pay raise as proposed by a top city official.

City council members voted Monday not to change the 2016 salary ordinance to increase the pay of the parks department program director by more than $4,000.

The position, which is responsible for attracting more athletic tournaments to the city, was created in late 2014 and is held by Jason Kleber.

According to this year’s salary ordinance, the pay range for the program director starts at $32,175 and goes up to $35,750.

Although employees are supposed to start at the bottom of the range, Kleber, who previously had worked for the city’s department of public works, started at the top.

The new salary ordinance would have increased the top of the range by $4,173 to $39,923.

Kleber said he never asked for a raise but was told by Mayor Craig Luedeman it would happen.

During Monday’s council meeting, Luedeman accepted full blame for the situation, saying he had promised Kleber more money.

Council President Jim Rebber said changing employee salaries after they have been adopted is a bad precedent to set.

Salaries are approved once a year as part of creating the city’s budget.

“If you set that precedence, who will come next?” he asked.

Councilman John Reinhart agreed.

“If any position within the city is being underpaid, the time to address it is at budget time,” he said.

A raise, outside the overall percentage that all employees receive, should be justified to the council then, he added. City council approved a 2 percent raise for employees for 2016.

Reinhart also said the city shouldn’t be approving additional pay raises at a time when it continues to struggle to cover employee health insurance costs.

“I just don’t think it’s a smart move,” he said.

Councilman Matt Nicholson was the only one to vote in favor of the ordinance.

He said approving it would only change the range and not actually give Kleber a raise.

“Nothing says the mayor has to give it to him. Nothing says he doesn’t. I believe a man is as good as his word,” Nicholson said. “Let’s give the mayor a chance to be a man of his word and either do or not do as he sees fit. It falls on his shoulders.”

Councilman Shawn Malone said if Luedeman or parks director Bob Tabeling wants to give Kleber a raise, it wouldn’t have to be the full $4,173.

“The way I read this, it changes the range for that position, so whoever could give him a thousand dollar raise. They could give him a five dollar raise,” Malone said. “This is asking me to give someone permission to give him a raise.”

Malone said he would like to see city officials set a precedence that they are “of their word.”

“If we say we’re going to do something, we should give those people the ability to do so,” he said.

Councilman Brian D’Arco said he thought the program director’s salary, on average, was in line with similar positions in other communities.

Kris Williams, the city’s human resources director, said the salary ordinance is base pay only and doesn’t include overtime or longevity pay or other financial incentives an employee might receive.

The parks program director is considered salary-exempt, which means Kleber currently does not receive overtime pay. That, however, will change as of Dec. 1, Williams said.

At that time, the job will be classified as an hourly, non-exempt position because it’s under $47,371 and will be eligible for overtime pay at time and a half, she said.

“His salary could actually go up quite a bit, depending on how many hours he works,” she said.

Williams said the council’s decision would affect all 184 city employees, several of whom attended Monday’s meeting.

“They are going to be upset,” she said.

City building commissioner Jeremy Gray said there are several employees who feel undervalued and underpaid.

“I know there are a lot of other people who haven’t got a 14 percent raise in the last probably five years combined,” he said. “I just think it sends a bad message to really good people that have worked here a really long time. We have several employees that will feel slighted.”

Kleber said he believes he should get the raise.

“Everyone thinks they should get a raise,” he said. “But the reason we’re here is because I thought other people thought I needed to get that raise.”