Dickinson City Commissioners voted 3-1, with Commissioner Wolla being the sole dissenting vote, to approve a 4% cost-of-living adjustment for city workers to take effect next pay period in lieu of proposed changes to the salary structure.

City Administrator Joseph Gaa explained three options. A 3% pay increase beginning next pay period would have cost the city roughly $413,500, whereas the 4% increase will cost the city roughly $523,700.

"Another option we threw out there — I think it's a little more cumbersome — but what if we made this retroactive to the 1st of the year. If we did a 3% to the 1st of the year, that would be just under $480,000, so staff basically recommended either doing the 3% retroactive or the 4% now, as pretty close to the same amount," Gaa said.

Mayor Scott Decker and City Commissioner Nicole Wolla were in favor of a 3% increase given that the commission had previously approved a health benefit.

"I guess I was going more towards the 3%. That's more savings plus the annual average is 1.6% for COLA increase, so it's still way above the average," Wolla said.

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Commissioner Sarah Trustem moved to approve a 4% COLA increase effective Feb. 23. Steiner seconded. Both said they looked at the increase as a pay raise rather than a cost-of-living adjustment.

Wolla voted against the motion. Decker voted in favor and explained his decision.

"Even though I prefer the 3%, I think it is the right thing to do now with Mr. Fridrich not here. We need to get something done for these employees," he said.

The city originally agreed on a new wage scale for its employees last August, but after receiving complaints from city employees, commissioners voted to have an outside company create its own market comparison study. This wage study proved unpopular with some of the commissioners, and the decision was postponed until 2020.

During its Feb. 4 meeting, the commission instructed Gaa to write a request for proposal for a more thorough wage study that included comparisons by job descriptions rather than by job titles alone.

During their meeting Tuesday, city commissioners unanimously approved a request for proposal for a third wage study, to be titled the Classification and Compensation Study.

"(It) would consist of four tasks, the first being to conduct a comprehensive compensation study using comparable agencies, not only job titles but duties and responsibilities, by reviewing job descriptions," Gaa said. " ... Number two, perform a benefits study — again using those same comparable agencies — to include shares of insurance premiums, vacation leave, holiday, sick leave and any additional benefits. Number three would be to recommend changes to the present city's compensation structure and then develop and recommend an implementation plan for the proposed salary adjustments, to include an estimated budget impact."

Proposals will be due March 24, 2020.