The Town of Middleburg has no official salary structure for its 12 staff positions, but it’s well on its way to developing one.
The Town Council last Thursday discussed the findings of a compensation study that was completed last month by independent human resources consultant Shawn Patton. The purpose of the study was to review the salaries of town staff members in comparison with other towns in the area and to propose adjustments. Patton recommended that the town increase the pay of one employee and suggested that staff members receive pay increases through cost-of-living adjustments rather than implementing a pay-for-performance program.
The only recommendation for a pay increase was for police Lt. Jay Hollins’ position. After six years of service with the town Police Department, and 10 months as a lieutenant, Hollins makes $64,358 annually.
Patton found that this was nearly $13,000 less than the market minimum for a lieutenant position and recommended that Hollins’salarybe increased by 10 percent to $70,800 annually.
Patton also found that the only other staff member who’s pay is below the market minimum is Police Chief A.J. Panebianco, who is paid nearly $4,000 less than market rate, at $95,842 annually. Patton did not recommend a pay increase for Panebianco, though. He said this was because the data collected to calculate the minimum was from higher-paying areas like the Town of Herndon and Fairfax and Loudoun counties. “The scope was much larger for the data that we were able to collect,” he said.
For comparison, Purcellville Police Chief Cynthia McAlister is paid $118,190 annually.
The next lowest paying non-police position, in relation to the market minimum, is Business & Economic Development Director Jamie Gaucher, who is paid only $2,700 more than the market minimum, at $90,125 annually. Patton said this discrepancy is because Gaucher has been in the role for only a year.
The lowest paying police position when compared to the market is Administrative Assistant Colleen Bryan, who is paid $278 more than the minimum, at $36,785 annually.
Of all the positions studied, Patton found that Town Administrator Martha Semmes is paid the most when compared to the market minimum for that position, which is set at $75,957. Semmes is paid nearly $32,000 more than this, at $107,869 annually.
In Purcellville, Town Manager David Mekarski is paid $150,000 annually, while Lovettsville’s currently-vacant town manager position pays up to $95,000 annually.
When asked why the minimum salary for the business and economic development director position turned up to be more than $10,000 less than the minimum salary for the town administrator position, Patton said that the town administrator job is valued less as a position and that the minimum salaries depend on each position’s duties, scope of work and what they’re valued at in terms of the market. “They’re just two very different positions,” he said.
With Semmes set to retire in December after eight years on the job, Patton suggested that her replacement should have three to five years of experience. Depending on who the Town Council selects for the job, the new town administrator will be paid anywhere from $76,000-$122,500.
When comparing staff salaries with market maximums, it’s Town Clerk Rhonda North who is paid the most, at $65,776—just $9,502 less than the market maximum for a town clerk position.
“Overall, I thought the employees were paid appropriately,” Patton said.
As for rewarding town staff members, Patton proposed that the town continue to focus on a cost-of-living adjustment approach because employees understand how it works, it ensures that staff salaries will be comparable with that of other area towns, it counteracts inflation and still permits high performers to be rewarded with bonuses.
“If they are performing at 110 percent of their goals, their increase should be a little bit higher than those that are at 100 or 90 percent,” Patton said. “I think flexibility is the key.”
Councilman Kevin Daly said it was important for the town to compensate staff at an adequate level.
“The danger is if they’re not properly compensated within the company that they’re currently working for, they’re going to get picked up by other companies or other towns who are willing to compensate them at a higher ratio,” he said. “I certainly would hate to lose a high performer with high competence simply because we weren’t willing to [increase salary by] 3-and-a-half, 5 percent or 7 percent.”
Mayor Bridge Littleton agreed with Daly, noting that bonuses could offset the town’s potential inability to increase salaries as much as that of other towns. “I think we’re very well armed to tackle these challenges,” he said.
Patton is set to provide the Town Council with more detailed information on this compensation approach at its Aug. 23 meeting.