Public works employees

Public Works Department employees get ready to clear floodwaters from White Park Drive in this file photo from Jan. 21. 

Most City of Nogales staffers will see more money in their paychecks soon if it moves forward with plans in a tentative budget that the Nogales City Council approved last week. In total, 257 of 283 employees could receive a salary increase of some amount, according to information presented at the council’s June 9 meeting.

The cost of the raises will total over $900,000 and they’re meant to address the findings of a 2019 compensation study that determined that nine out of every 10 City of Nogales workers earn less than their peers at other local governments in Southern Arizona. (That doesn’t mean workers will see their salaries rise by a combined $900,000, however, because the cost calculation took into account pension obligations and other costs.)

According to a presentation shown at the council meeting, 129 employees were earning below the minimum salary that the study recommended for their position. Almost $750,000 of the cost will go to bringing their pay up to the minimum level.

On top of that, all employees whose salary was below the midpoint for their position, according to the compensation study, will receive a two percent pay raise. The presentation shows 257 employees – the 129 who were below the minimum salary level plus another 128 who were in between the minimum and the midpoint – will get the two percent raise.

That leaves just 26 employees, whose salaries were already above the midpoint as determined by the compensation study, who won’t see a raise under the plan.

The council is set to hold a public hearing and give final approval to the Fiscal Year 2022 budget on June 28.

The most recent across-the-board pay raise for city employees came in 2016. In recent years, the council doled out several $500 bonuses to municipal employees, but didn’t take action to address the pay issues found in the compensation study, which was presented to the council in February 2019.

Since the study was presented, a handful of employees have seen their pay increase with specific approval from the council, including several top administrators.

Earlier this year, five employees at the Nogales City Court got a council-approved pay raise after City Magistrate Vanessa Cartwright said employees were leaving the court seeking better pay elsewhere, leading to high turnover.

One issue with the slow reaction to the compensation study, council members previously noted, is that salary expectations rise over time.

“As soon as you get somebody to the midpoint, and then you decide to do another compensation study, they’re going to be down at the low point,” Mayor Arturo Garino said at a February council meeting.

Last week, Garino seemed to indicate that the current raises were already insufficient. “We’ve got to do better than that,” the mayor said, indicating he wanted to discuss the issue again after passing the current budget.

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