In the face of tighter finances, the City of Chadron and the City of Chadron Employees Association reached an agreement to alter several provisions in its personnel manual. The changes were approved by the council this month.
“The CCEA has met a number of times on this issue,” said Janet Johnson, who spoke for the association at the most recent city council meeting. As employees have seen their wages frozen and the city taking a step away from the “three-legged stool” approach to pay and benefits, the two sides attempted to find ways to recognize employees for their service without breaking the city’s finances, she said.
“We spent a tremendous amount of hours discussing the scenarios,” said City Manager Greg Yanker, saying the goal was to find a benefit for the employees that is fiscally sustainable for the city.
Several city employees attended last week’s meeting to see how the council would vote on the proposal. Councilman Mark Werner wanted to table the matter until he could further understand the agreement since Yanker’s memo on the issue was inadvertently left out of the council packets. After a lengthy discussion, however, a vote to table the resolution failed, and the agreement with the CCEA was approved unanimously.
“I’m actually very comfortable with this,” said Vice Mayor Keith Crofutt.
The approved resolution calls for making the following changes to the personnel manual:
*any employee who has worked for the city more for 10 years or more who resigns, is dismissed or dies will be paid a percentage of their balance of accumulated sick leave. Employees with 10 years on the job will earn 10% of their accumulated sick leave, while those with 15 years will earn 20.84%. Employees who have worked for the city for 20 years will be paid 25% of their accumulated sick leave.
*regular, full-time employees will receive one additional personal leave day, to be forfeited upon resignation or termination.
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*special leave with pay will be granted to regular, full-time employees on Christmas Eve when it falls on a week day by closing city hall at noon. Other city departments not covered by the collective bargaining agreement will close after their normal four-hour shift.
Street Superintendent Terry Birnbaum said he believes both sides should be happy with the agreement.
“We both walked away from the table going ‘we did all right.’”
The discussion and consideration given to all sides was a positive, said Councilwoman Cheryl Welch, but she remained concerned about the city’s wage scale and its failure to meet comparability as required.
During the 2017-18 fiscal year, the city failed to meet comparability for 50% of its positions, and will continue to fall farther behind if it doesn’t address its wages, Yanker said. He is hopeful solutions like the one approved last week will open up opportunities to address comparability within the city’s array for at least some of the positions, but cannot promise all of them will be dealt with in a year.
“We also have a responsibility to provide a fiscally-balanced budget,” Yanker said.
Crofutt agreed, stressing that meeting comparability on the wage scale is always at the forefront of the discussions.
“If anyone thinks we went into this thinking ‘ha, ha we’re not going to give raises’ you’re just wrong,” he said of the recent negotiations with the CCEA.