Starting Oct. 1, dozens of city employees will see a boost in their salaries.
On Tuesday, the mayor and council approved a measure to implement a minimum wage of nearly $14 an hour for municipal workers.
Now, the lowest annual salary a city employee can earn will amount to approximately $29,052 – or $13.97 an hour.
“There won’t be anything below that,” confirmed City Manager Edward Dickie.
The city’s new minimum rate for municipal workers will rise slightly higher than the expected statewide minimum wage.
In January, the state’s minimum pay rate will increase from $12.80 an hour to $13.85, according to an estimate from the Arizona Capitol Times released this week. (That minimum applies to all wage-earners in Arizona, with the exception of federal workers and tipped employees.)
Initially, the City Council had planned to implement the salary boost beginning Jan. 1 – but after some discussion on Tuesday, council members agreed to start the ordinance sooner.
“I prefer that they become effective in October,” said Councilwoman Liza Montiel.
“I also believe that,” Mayor Arturo Garino echoed.
A new budget passed by the mayor and council in June kept the lowest hourly rate for city employees at $13. Meanwhile, certain staffers at the top of the pay scale received annual raises of $10,000 or more, angering some in the community.
The city’s elected officials then took up the idea of raising the minimum wage during meetings in July and August. Now, after Tuesday’s vote, approximately 47 workers will benefit from the impending salary change, according to Dickie.
Down the line, Dickie added, the council will likely discuss another increase in the minimum wage next summer.
“We’ll bring that back,” he said. “At this time we know this is sustainable.”
With the new ordinance, Nogales now joins several cities in Arizona in pushing the minimum wage above the statewide rate for city workers.
According to the City of Tucson’s proposed budget for 2023, the minimum rate sits at $15 an hour for city employees. And the City of Sierra Vista’s 2023 pay schedule for municipal staff includes a minimum hourly of $14.69.
The City of Flagstaff recently announced its minimum wage would rise to $16.80 an hour for not only city workers, but nearly all employees who work within city limits.
More locally, the Santa Cruz County government passed a budget this summer with a 6-percent across-the-board pay increase that brought the lowest-paid full-time position at the county up to $15.13 an hour, County Manager Jennifer St. John told the NI.
The idea to raise the minimum wage in Nogales was first proposed by Councilman Octavio Gradillas, Jr. at a meeting in July.
“With the way the economy is, and the way everything is, even McDonald’s is paying $15 an hour,” he said at the time.
A string of large corporations bumped their rates during the pandemic – including Amazon, Target, Chipotle and Starbucks. Costco’s hourly rate now starts at $16, and this fall, Walgreens employees are set to earn a minimum of $15 an hour, according to data from Forbes.
“We need to make ourselves more marketable and we need to help with our employee retention,” Gradillas added at the July meeting.
At an August study session, the council deliberated two options: raising the minimum wage to either $14 or $15 an hour.
Raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour will cost the city roughly $60,000 annually, Dickie estimated – a sliver of its $85 million budget for the current fiscal year.
According to a feasibility study presented at the August session, boosting the minimum to $15 an hour would have cost the city more than $234,000. The shift also would have affected a larger swath of employees – around 85 workers.
Ultimately, the council voted in favor of the lower option – $14 an hour.
During the August session, Finance Director Jean Moehlman expressed concern that a $15 hourly minimum could prompt future layoffs.
“I wouldn’t want to say, ‘Let’s do it,’ and then next June have to tell all my directors, ‘You have to get rid of five people,’” she explained.
As of Thursday before press time, the Industrial Commission of Arizona was slated to officially adopt a new statewide minimum wage.
However, per the Arizona Capitol Times estimate, the rate was expected to rise to $13.85 an hour, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Inflation has been particularly high in Arizona, compared to other states. According to a recent BLS report, Phoenix showed a 13 percent rise in its Consumer Price Index between August 2021 and 2022 – the highest CPI spike of any major metropolitan area.
Federal data does not track inflation among smaller cities like Nogales.