Structure impacts promotions, hiring
By Bert Lehman
Police Chief Craig Freitag is concerned with his department’s salary structure.
According to Freitag, the salary structure discourages current employees to seek promotions, and it makes it difficult for the department to fill dispatcher vacancies.
Oct. 9 Finance meeting
Freitag brought his concerns to elected officials for the first time when he addressed the Clintonville Finance and Personnel Committee at its Oct. 9 meeting.
He told the committee that the Clintonville Police Department is experiencing a lot of wage-related issues, including his own salary. He said that he was hired in 2019, a year after the city of Clintonville hired an outside firm to conduct a wage study.
The first year that he prepared the budget for the police department he said he found out that employees in the department that he supervised were making more money than he was.
“And the city said, ‘Oh, figured you were going to find out,” Freitag said.
Of note, unionized members of the Clintonville Police Department were not part of the 2018 wage study. Patrol officers are the unionized members in the department.
Freitag said he has contacted consulting firms that conduct wage studies, and asked how they come up with a salary for a position. He said based on the formula he was given, the captain’s position makes $2.44 per hour more than the chief’s position.
“However, at the end of the year, my salary is just under $1,000 more,” Freitag said. “I work 133 hours more.”
Freitag’s salary is based on 2,080 hours, while the captain’s salary is based on 1,947 hours.
Freitag claimed the way the city’s salaries are structured, it makes it difficult to promote from within because employees would have to take a pay cut in certain instances when promoted. Compounding that, Freitag said if the city looks to hire from outside current staff, it would be difficult to find candidates willing to accept a job at the salary the city offers.
“This city has created this culture of management (wondering) why don’t people want to get promoted?” Freitag said.
Over the past few years, Freitag said he has had problems hiring dispatchers for the department because of the starting wage for the position.
“We have been fortunate for a lot of years in the dispatch center, having employees that have been there a long time,” Freitag said. “They’re gone, and now we are in the same boat as everybody else.”
In addition, Freitag said based on the numbers he has seen, none of the positions in the police department are in the top five (in wages) in the city.
“We’re going to do a wage study. Most likely it will sit on the self because we will not be able to afford to make the changes,” Freitag said. “So, why invest that $15,000 in a wage study when we already know the answer?”
In a phone interview with the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Freitag said the reason he is expressing his concerns is he feels the city’s elected officials need to be aware of the potential hiring issues this could cause in the future for the department.
“In looking at numbers, our clerk/dispatchers, based on the numbers that I have seen, they’re underpaid quite a bit,” Freitag said. “Nobody at the city is looking to be the highest paid in the area, but just looking at averages, our dispatch is under the average, considerably.”
As stated, patrol officers are unionized. Their union contract with the city expires after 2024, Frietag said.
“In the past, the wages for our patrol officers have been in the ballpark area of where they should be in local comparisons,” he said. “We have to make sure as a city we stay competitive in that area. Some departments around us have gotten some sizable increases patrol officer-wise. I want to make sure we’re in a good position for that.”
When it comes to the wages for management at the police department, Freitag said there are “wage compression” issues within the department. Wage compression occurs when there is little difference in pay between employees, regardless of differences in the knowledge, skills, experience, and abilities of the employees.
The wage compression issue discourages employees to seek promotions because they would have to take a cut in wages to do so, Freitag said.
Freitag said he’s not sure another wage study will solve the issues.
“Is a wage study going to correct these issues, because this is kind of how we got into this predicament in 2017 or 2018 when they did one,” Freitag said.
In an email from City Administrator Caz Muske to department heads, dated Sept. 27, the top five city positions that are underpaid are: city administrator, public works director, utility finance director, library youth services,director, and certified wastewater operator. This was determined by an in-house wage study conducted by Muske in 2022.
“I do not feel qualified to discard our current compensation method then implement anything based on this data,” Muske said in the email. “I feel more comfortable going to a consultant to gain their recommendations.”
Oct. 24 Finance meeting
Wage compression was on the agenda for a special Clintonville Finance and Personnel Committee meeting held Oct. 24.
In a memo from Muske to the committee members and Mayor Steve Kettenhoven, Muske stated the agenda item called for discussion and possible action regarding wage compression for police, public works and utility department supervisors.
The memo cited salary figures for different city positions. According to the memo, the 2022 gross salary for the utility manager position was $84,972, while the gross salary for the electric foreman position was $97,132. The 2022 gross salary for the public works director position was $67,318, while the gross salary for the street superintendent position was $75,788. The 2022 gross salary for the police chief was $81,866, while the gross salary for the police captain was $80,907.
Muske said in the memo that the salary comparison information was “acknowledged and discussed” with city leadership.
“To combat the concerns in an equitable way versus facing one department over another, the professional compensation study was the census (sic),” Muske said.
She added, “City leadership’s aim is to generate a sound compensation system that is strategically aligned with the city’s compensation strategy, internally equitable, market competitive, supportive of employees (fair), legally sound, affordable, understandable and audited regularly.”