A plan to reward and retain city workers in a competitive job market was unveiled by Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, who has included across-the-board raises in the proposed fiscal 2023 budget.
“We are in undeniably the toughest job market that we have ever seen I think in my lifetime and certainly in my career as a public servant,” he said during a May 5 news conference held at the Salisbury Fire Department headquarters.
The city has given minimum 2 percent raises to its 450 employees since fiscal 2014, but this year they will get minimum 6 percent pay increases to help cover the rising cost of living due to inflation, Day said. The raises account for just 1.68 percent of the total $49 million operating budget.
Additionally, there will be layer increases for some long-serving workers, most of whom are in the Fire Department and Water Works.
“It’s a small investment to make to support those who support all of us,” the mayor said.
Across the country, a low unemployment rate has created a tough job market, with workers able to ask for – and get – what they want. Day noted that “tides are turning” at large employers such as Starbucks and Amazon where employees have recently unionized.
While the current mayor and City Council are committed to maintaining annual cost of living increases, Day said there are no guarantees that could continue after the next city election.
“Some things must become set in stone,” he said.
In the coming weeks, a draft charter amendment will be sent to the City Council to extend collective bargaining rights to all city employees, Day said. It comes on the heels of the city’s first negotiated contract with the firefighters’ union.
The City Council has already given preliminary approval to a $70.9 million spending package for fiscal 2023 that includes some fee increases, but maintains the current property tax rate of 98.32 cents per $100 of assessed value.
This will be the sixth year in a row without a property tax increase, but the continuation of a gradual increase in fees.
Under the new fee schedule, water and sewer rates will increase by 6 percent across the board for all residential and commercial customers both inside and outside city limits. The changes will be effective Oct. 1.
Final adoption of the budget will take place in either late May or early June. The new budget will take effect on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.