In Lake Woebegovernment, All Salaries Are Above Average

In Springfield, the head of the city’s HR department has told the city council that city salaries are too low:

Springfield is at best average — and more often significantly worse — when it comes to the pay offered to most city employees, according to a salary survey City Council discussed Tuesday.

The survey, completed earlier this year, compared the maximum pay for 61 city positions to the salaries offered for the same work in 11 of Springfield’s benchmark cities.

“All in all, 64 percent of our salary survey positions are in the lower third,” said Sheila Maerz, the city’s director of human resources. “Our goal is to be in the middle third.”

You know what citizens should call this? A bargain.

The article does mention that Springfield has the lowest cost of living among the cities sampled for this information. The city also says that its cost of attaining new workers, which would seem to indicate that they’re not having trouble filling the jobs they post. So, what’s the problem?

It’s hard for me to imagine an HR director at a private company going to the corporate management and saying “We need to boost salaries just because.” If Springfield’s city salaries go up, its benefits costs go up, and its ability to meet its future obligations go up drastically. Let’s take a look at the cities Springfield compared itself to:

  • Abilene, Texas (Dyess Air Force Base)
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Columbia, S.C. (Fort Jackson)
  • Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Huntsville, Ala. (U.S. Army Redstone Center, NASA)
  • Knoxville, Tenn. (U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (State Capital)
  • Savannah, Ga. (Hunter Army Air Field)
  • Wichita Falls, Texas (Sheppard Air Force Base)

Look at all the government jobs available in those positions. Of the other eleven benchmark cities, at least six of them have military bases or other federal installations in them and one of them is the state capital. As such, they are automatically going to have competition for government workers and would have to pay better to keep the city workers from becoming state or Federal employees or contractors.

I wonder if the presentation covered the possibility that the job competition might have had an impact.