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Tampa city managers get top pay

A preliminary salary survey says the city pays many of its managers quite a bit more than other government bodies.

By JANET ZINK
Published March 18, 2006


TAMPA - The city of Tampa pays many of its managers significantly more than other governments, according to a draft of a compensation survey the city commissioned.

City pay is generally lower than the private sector. But researchers found that Tampa pays some top employees 20 to 30 percent more than the top end of the salary range for the same jobs in comparable local governments.

One job - the utility accounting manager - pays 35 percent more.

Tampa's wastewater director, Ralph Metcalf, earns $122,138 a year. That's 31 percent more than the $93,112 that was the top of the range for the same job in other areas. And Tampa's finance director, Bonnie Wise, earns $147,906 - 23 percent more than the maximum for finance directors elsewhere. Tampa's human relations director, Kimberly Crum, said the results are preliminary and some numbers will change.

The draft report contains some errors in percentage calculations. Final results are due at the end of the month, along with recommendations on how to handle city salaries.

"Until we see the final data, I'm not drawing a ton of conclusions," Crum said. But she said the city needs to offer salaries competitive with the private sector to attract the best people.

"We struggle a little bit with the size of the city and how much we compete with private industry for recruitment," she said.

City managers make about 16 percent less than those in similar private jobs, according to the survey's early results.

"We're never going to compete dollar for dollar because we're a municipality," Crum said.

But the city stands to lose key people if it doesn't pay well, she said. In recent months, a longtime city attorney left for the private sector, and last week the city's acting public works director announced he will take a job with a consultant.

"The offers they're getting are very, very attractive," Crum said. "We want to have a balance. We are a municipality and need to pay like a municipality. But the real hard facts are that many of our positions compete against the private sector."

The city has not had a pay study for "probably 25 years," said chief of staff Darrell Smith. "There was a need to get that input from an independent, nonbiased outside source ... so we'd have some idea whether or not our pay rates are comparable to the market."

A second phase of the study will look at rank-and-file pay, affecting more than 4,000 city employees.

Karen Richardson, St. Petersburg's labor relations manager, said the city conducts an annual salary study.

"We usually come out behind," she said. But St. Petersburg tries to keep salaries for similar work within 5 percent of other agencies, she said.

"It's a matter of fiscal management," she said. "We've kind of accepted the position that we aren't necessarily trying to keep up with the Joneses."

St. Petersburg's salary surveys only look at other governments, not the private sector.

"It's very tough to compete with the private sector so that's not one of our goals," she said. "As long as we're not having recruiting problems, then we feel that we're doing okay."

The Tampa City Council approved the $110,000 study by MGT of America in May.

The company surveyed wages in 19 comparable cities and counties in Florida and throughout the country, including Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the Hillsborough County School District, Cincinnati, Raleigh, N.C., and St. Louis.

They compared those results with more than 40 management job categories in Tampa that include about 220 people.

"It is interesting to note that on the whole, the city of Tampa has positioned itself above the market. ... This is not often the case in a municipal organization," the study's summary states.

The study provides no comparative results for Tampa's top paid administrators, including publics works and utilities administrator Steve Daignault and economic development manager Mark Huey, who each earn $141,398, and neighborhood services administrator Santiago Corrada, who is paid $137,612.

Tampa's solid waste director, David McCary, earns $122,138 annually, while Hillsborough County, a larger geographic area with more people, pays its solid waste director $104,998. St. Petersburg pays its sanitation director $103, 387.

Tampa administrators are to present results of the survey to the City Council in two weeks.

Council member Shawn Harrison said he's eager to delve into the numbers.

"I just want to make sure that we're spending the taxpayers' money as wisely as possible and that we're not paying the management more than what is fair," he said. "If we can put that money to better use by hiring police officers and firefighters and filling potholes we should do that."

Council member Rose Ferlita said if the survey's results reveal that management salaries are bloated, not much can be done.

"If you freeze their salaries and give them nothing but a cost of living raise, you're going to lose them," she said.

The city should use the study to hire people at a rate more commensurate with other governments, she said. Meanwhile, she said she's curious to see survey results of other city workers.

"I suspect the hourly waged people are underpaid," Ferlita said.

Last year, union employees twice rejected their contract with the city because it reduced merit raises. Union representatives said Iorio overpaid top management.

"It's something we felt all along," said Mary Neumeier, a water department employee and executive board member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. "This validates our impressions."

Janet Zink can be reached at 813 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 18, 2006, 02:30:29]


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