By Moses Leos III
Budget discussions in Buda include a salary increase for employees, which would push the total amount spent on salaries to more than $3 million.
The city council will decide on whether to offer raises as it works through all of the proposals on the table this budget cycle for the 2015 fiscal year.
A salary comparison study, conducted over three years, showed Buda was below average in many similar positions at other Central Texas cities.
“One of our concerns is losing good people. If we have good workers, we want to keep them,” Mayor Todd Ruge said. “One of the ways you build loyalty is to compensate [employees]well. [We] want to make sure if they do decide to leave, it’s not just a money issue.”
Buda began conducting the survey three years ago following a salary freeze, which was brought on by the 2009 recession.
Ruge said another issue was Buda was becoming what he called a “stepping stone” city for employees, where they would work and train in Buda for a short time then take that experience to a city that paid a higher salary.
With the training ground mentality, along with the lower pay, the city began to see employees from “the entire workforce” exit, according to Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams.
“We felt we got a little bit behind on our pay to our employees,” Williams said. “We began to lose employees to cities who were paying more.”
In order to stay competitive, along with ensuring retention, Buda began surveying salaries from other cities.
They didn’t ask cities of similar size.
Instead, Buda targeted cities it lost people to — Kyle, San Marcos, Seguin, — New Braunfels and Pflugerville cities two to three times Buda’s population.
They did so by comparing salaries across all positions with other cities in the area. City staff compiled the minimum, median and maximum salaries; they attained an “average” across all three salary categories.
The goal was to set all positions at the minimum threshold, ensuring fair salaries to all employees.
“We don’t want to lose someone over a few hundred bucks,” Ruge said. “We made the commitment as a council that we are determined to keep the good people we have.”
The result has seen Buda bring nearly all employees to the minimum level.
In 2013, 42 Buda employees fell below the minimum standard.
Now the city is contemplating adding an additional three percent increase to the minimum.
Buda is projected to spend $2.91 million on salaries, but an increase would push that amount to $3.07 million.
The increase includes an additional pay raise for the Buda Police Department officers, an idea supported by Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd.
The Buda Police Officers’Association spearheaded the proposed salary increase. Like the city’s salary survey, the motive was to keep the department competitive against other agencies, specifically the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
One officer departed Buda in 2013 for the Austin Police Department officers. Kidd said the move was strictly a financial decision.
“Having parity in the area is important for retention,” Kidd said. “If you don’t offer competitive salaries, you’re becoming a training agency for other [agencies]to benefit from.”
However, all figures are “speculation and consideration,” said Williams, as the city continues to flush out numbers for the budget.
But could this increase keep employees in Buda?
Williams believes it’s enough for now.
“We are getting in a position where our employees feel fairly compensated,” Williams said. “I think we’ve achieved the goal of being able to be concerned about our employees, and their (ability to have) a comfortable standard of living.”