Letter to the Editor: Discussion on Dover revised pay plan leaves questions


I’m not sure any of the city of Dover taxpayers and residents had an opportunity to watch the City Council meeting of March 27. If you haven’t, I would encourage you to do so.

The City Council had instructed staff to work on a revised pay plan for all city employees in July 2022. The staff compared Dover’s pay rates with those of several other municipalities and utilities. This endeavor took a lot of time and now appears to be close to completion. The findings of the research indicated the city employees were compensated 30% below the comparative entities. City employees have long awaited the completion of this endeavor and would like to see it implemented as soon as possible. Several members of council agreed at the end of the presentation.

The presentation provided by the city manager’s office has the implementation of the pay plan at a cost of $4.5 million to $5 million for approximately 326 employees, excluding the $1.5 million police memorandum of understanding. One contributing factor to the cost is the pay-in-grade adjustment. For equity purposes, council is providing a 2% adjustment for each year of service, in order to address employee concerns concerning those who have worked fewer years. The cost most likely includes benefits that are paid out based on a percentage of the employee’s salary, such as pensions, Federal Insurance Contributions Act funding, worker’s compensation insurance and retirement health care contributions to the medical trust fund. It was stated that the average employee would see a 25% increase in pay and some as much as a 100% increase. The discussion also mentioned a 9.4% increase in health care premiums for fiscal year 2024. Balancing the implementation of the plan with the affordability of Dover residents was mentioned several times. A better understanding could be gained if the council packet included the presentation for the public to follow.

I don’t dispute the pay plan and the city’s desire to pay their employees a comparable wage to that of other communities. It does concern me if we are not maintaining comparable wages. A comprehensive position/pay grade analysis hasn’t been completed in over 10 years. In the past, comparisons and pay scale adjustments were completed in conjunction with union contract negotiations, including benefits.

I am concerned about future years. Actuarial studies are completed every year to determine the city’s retirement liabilities for pension and health care. In doing so, they make assumptions, such as pay increases, medical cost increases, mortality rates, investment returns, interest rates, etc. If there are significant swings in these assumptions, the benefit rate will be affected. I’m not certain if there is consideration of these factors in the future cost.

Another concern is the process this has followed.

Over the past six months, there have been several executive session meetings of the City Council. Three have been for “strategy.” The city’s website doesn’t show minutes posted, including the open-session portion of executive sessions, where attendance of those present is taken; then, council adjourns to executive session; then, at the close of the executive portion of the meeting, they open back up in public session, make public and vote on any actions they have taken, then close the meeting. I’m assuming these strategy sessions are related to the pay plan proposal. The vagueness of the agenda topic doesn’t lend itself to the public’s understanding.

My final concern about the pay plan revolves around the council members’ comments and whether this will be adopted outside of the budget process, like other recent decisions. Will it be presented to the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee for review and discussion to allow for the two weeks between committee and council meetings for the public’s input?

The city manager also provided council with an overview of the progress on the fiscal year ’24 budget and the challenges they are facing ($17.5 million expenditure increase and $6 million to $7 million of potential revenue growth), and discussed the need to determine what rates and fees will be proposed for increase. Some rate increases were included; others are still being developed. Again, it was reiterated, this is a work in progress and needs to be balanced to meet everyone’s expectations.

This public briefing during the March 27 council meeting was requested by the City Council, coming out of a council retreat held at Maple Dale Country Club on March 24. Minutes from the retreat have not been posted, nor was there a presentation attached to the retreat agenda for the public’s review. Hopefully, there will be some effort to get this presentation to the residents and commercial customers before the budget hearings, for the customers’ planning purposes.

There are other instances of the council approving items in executive session, pertaining to pensions and memorandums of understanding with employee unions, that have affected the budgets for the past and current fiscal years by over $3 million, to continue into future budgets. The executive session minutes do not reflect the cost of these decisions at the time they were made. This process disenfranchised the civilian committee members from performing the duties they were appointed for and didn’t allow public input between committee and council meetings. These meetings are also noncompliant with Freedom of Information Act open-meeting regulations.

I prefer to read minutes rather than watch the video of council meetings due to the quality of the video. Doing so, I noticed the March 27 minutes have not been posted and were noted as deferred on the April 10 agenda. I had no choice but to watch the video to hear the topic at hand. With the timing of the budget, I felt compelled to provide this information to the public.

Donna Mitchell


Editor’s note: Donna Mitchell retired as Dover’s city manager in 2020. The minutes for the regular City Council Meeting that was held March 27, 2023, are now posted at https://www.cityofdover.com/meetings.  Use the filter tab at the top of the web page to select the meeting date.

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