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Columbia City Council considers several pay raises for workers

Employees with the city of Columbia could get greater pay raises in next year's budget.

The Columbia City Council adopted several different measures to raise pay for city workers, setting the new minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour and giving a 45-cent an hour raise to every employee. The council also accepted plans to give trash collectors a $2-an-hour raise and moves employees with five years of experience or more to the midpoint of their salary range.

Employees with several departments have alerted council members to poor working conditions and lagging pay. The city has not given significant raises to workers in several years, causing many departments to lose workers to other cities or the private sector to find competitive pay. An ABC 17 News Investigates analysis found that 78 percent of workers made a wage below the midpoint, considered by the city the median salary for a particular job across the country.

The council reset the expectations for how much sales tax the city would collect in order to budget for the raises from a two percent loss to a one percent loss.

City Manager Mike Matthes said department heads came up with various ways to fund pay raises. Parks and Recreation plans to reduce several services, including its CARE job training program. Director Mike Griggs also suggested removing some of the emergency phones along parks and trails throughout the city, as well as reducing the safety patrols done in those areas at night. 

Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer said the department plans on ending a cleaning contract for its headquarters and cutting savings from their personnel budget to pay for raises.

The new $15 an hour minimum wage will not apply to firefighters who work 56-hour weeks. The equivalent wage will go up to $10.71 an hour for those workers. Currently, all firefighters make a wage above that.

Council members will make the final decision on any of the plans by its Sept. 17 meeting.

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