Mayor proposes $15 minimum wage and 6% raise for Knoxville city workers

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon announced Friday that she included demands for better pay for city workers, including a minimum wage of $15 an hour and a general raise of 6%. However, how the city will pay for this has not been decided.

She made the announcement outside the downtown fire station, surrounded by firefighters, police and city workers as snow showers fell. The increases will be part of this spring’s annual budget request, which must be approved by city council.

The push comes as the city COVID-19[female[feminine financial fears have evaporated. A new compensation study found that salaries in the city, overall, are 10% below market rate.

This has made it difficult to recruit and retain employees, especially first responders, Kincannon said.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen the cracks of a staffing shortage emerge,” Kincannon said. “Now, in the midst of an increasingly competitive labor market, we have reached a breaking point. We have nearly 150 vacancies across the city, which means longer response times and fewer hands to do the essential work of protecting public health and safety.

In all, she proposed the following:

  • Minimum wage of $15 per hour for municipal employees. Kincannon called him joining the “$15 club,” which many large private employers have touted in recent years.
  • A one-time aggregate salary increase of 6% for all employees, up from the typical annual increase of 2.5%.
  • Adjustments to salary scales in municipal services to better match market comparisons and deal with compression. This would mean, for example, reconfiguring the salaries of employees who have held a position but have not been promoted by someone who has just occupied the same position.
  • Implemented a step pay plan for the Knoxville Police and Knoxville Fire Departments, allowing uniformed employees to advance each year throughout their careers. The system would likely mirror that of the county and reward employees for longevity and potentially offer different salary levels within a singular job title.

Police Chief Eve Thomas and Fire Chief Stan Sharp both said the raises would help, with Sharp saying it costs around $40,000 to fully train a new firefighter, so being able to retain more will help in the long run. term.

“This compensation fix can’t come fast enough,” Thomas said in a press release. “We are 42 full officers short, and our officers are stretched thin. We know that too often we lose agents to other cities or higher paying career opportunities. Our officers deserve better, just like the people of Knoxville.

Coming budget crisis

At the city’s budget retreat last week, Susan Gennoe, the city’s chief financial officer, said the compensation survey would likely show the city needed to compensate between $9 million and $13 million in fixed salaries. On Friday, Kincannon said that estimate was the best estimate the city should work with, though they will know more when they begin the budgeting process this spring.

Last week, Gennoe said next year’s budget — fiscal year 2023 — was “the year of caution” where the balance of the city fund, or rainy day fund, dwindles to nothing. .

Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas announces her retirement during a press conference at the City-County Building in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Chief Thomas joined the Police in 1993 and held various leadership positions before being appointed Chief in 2018.

So Kincannon has a decision to make. This year or next, she’ll likely have to cut services, propose a property tax hike, or plan a mix of the two to keep the city financially healthy.

For his part, Kincannon said all possibilities are being explored.

“We are evaluating all options, and (a property tax increase) is one of them,” she told Knox News after the press conference. “We need to make sure we maintain high quality services for the people of Knoxville.

“More people want to live here and move here and have their businesses here and that requires services and services require people,” she continued. “And people have to be paid fairly or else they go to other jobs.”

Kincannon will present its plan and present the full findings of the compensation study at a city council workshop scheduled for March 3. If approved by board members during the budgeting process, these changes will take effect July 1.

Comments are closed.