Dickinson City Commissioners Wednesday finalized the city's 2020 budget, which includes a proposed new five-year wage scale for city employees.

With the change, the city hopes to enhance employee recruitment and retention, Deputy City Administrator Linda Carlson said.

"It's to make sure our lower grade employees, the worker bees, are getting a marketable rate and that it is comparable to markets around," she said. "You could be working here, but if somebody down the block is offering almost the same position at a higher price, why not?"

The change allows aggressive pay jumps to be made in the city's most vulnerable positions.

Instead of a yearly salary increase, city employees would receive a large pay increase every five years, City Administrator Joe Gaa said.

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"A five-year plan is almost a four-year plan. The minute, day one, of your fifth year, you make the jump," Gaa said.

Out of 204 existing city positions, 13 will not see a raise in 2020.

The reasons are: being hired higher than minimum, and/or being with the city less than five years, and/or they do not carry the city health insurance.

"Of the 13 people or so who are left, none of them are Grades 1, 2 or 3, I believe. They're all 4 and above, and new in their tenures," Gaa said. "We feel pretty good about that."

Those employees will see raises, though, the following year.

"The folks that generally benefit from any change in any wage scale are those that are fairly new in their employment and are in the lower tiers," Gaa said.

The wage scale will also be adjusted regularly. Every other year, in 2021 and 2023, the scale will increase by 1%.

"By the time you get to the end, that number has gone up a couple of percents every five years," Gaa said. "You think you're going to get 'this' in five years, and really it'll be a little bit more."

The cost of changing to the new wage scale is not much of an increase over the city's current structure, Gaa noted.

The change for 2020 will cost an additional $400,000, and $400,000 for implementation.

"It's a big chunk up front," Gaa said. "Next year, it drops down to only being $352,000 more than what we normally do."

The city is also working to make health benefits for city employees more afforadable.

"What was instituted is, every five years of service, you will get 2.5% more of your insurance premiums paid by the city," Gaa said. "We think we projected that forward pretty well."

If approved, the new wage scale and health benefits will be implemented Jan. 1.

The city will benefit from the new plan, Gaa said.

"It's bumping up some of our positions at the bottom level to make us better recruiters, and better at retaining," he said. "It happens weekly where someone we've hired recently, their name was in the market and got picked up by somebody, and they have to go."

He added, "It comes down to a personal choice each time, but we believe we've made a better impact because of this."

Mayor Scott Decker applauded Gaa, Carlson and city staff for their efforts in completing the wage study.

"We've probably worked this study more than any other study that has come through the city," he said. "We have to adjust our scale to be competitive. We'll never compete 100% with the market, but we offer a lot of stability in our positions."

A public hearing on the 2020 city budget will be held at the City Commissioners meeting on Sept. 17, with commissioners taking action on the item on Oct. 1.