Professional Salaries Discussed During Huntington Council Work Session

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Professional Salaries Discussed During Huntington Council Work Session

The City of Huntington has lost its police chief and director of finance & administration to higher salaries.  Mayor Steve Williams has recommended reclassification of some employees into a “professional” category which would raise their salaries and provide greater flexibility.

However, all council members do not favor the proposal which will have a first reading on Monday night.

“Our pay classifications for professionals is not on par to retain [them],” Williams said during the Thursday afternoon, April 24 work session. For instance, the Director of Administration and Finance took a job at Marshall University that increased her salary by $45,000. Police Chief Skip Holbrook took a job in a larger South Carolina city for an increase. Other professionals are “getting offers,” Williams told council.

The proposal would add Professional Category Positions into the P-30 range. Depending upon experience and service, the Director of Administration and Finance would go from a P-27 (maximum $72,730.36) to $92,429 to $98,314. The Police and Fire Chief would be placed on equal pairing jumping from P-26 (maximum $69,267.50) to P-28 ($73,614-$82,617). The City Attorney would also go from P-26 to a P-29 ($84,579 to $90,465).  The Public Works Director and Finance Director would rise from a P-25 (approximately $66,000 maximum) to P-27 ($65,295.82-$69,267.50).

Williams explained these proposals would keep Huntington “competitive within the marketplace,” noting that Huntington “demands more of our folks” than larger cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington.

At large councilman David Ball provided research of various cities with populations from 43,000 (Blacksburg, Va.) to 58,897 (Westchester Township Ohio) where the low for police chief was $45,000 (Salina, Ks.) and the highs were $75,000 (Gaithersburg, Md. And Smyrna, Ga.).

During the research, Ball found that city attorneys were paid a low of $72,000 (Salina, Ks.) to a high of $120,000 (Marietta, Ga.).

Ball said, “I don’t think we can support what’s in the chart. We need to work with the Mayor on an agreeable plan.”

Speaking of the Police Chief position, Ball stressed, “We have people right here who can step in and do it at a price we can afford.”

Councilman Scott Caserta expressed his own concerns due to the infrastructure , sidewalks and other “challenges and problems.” He likened the professional salary increases to ignoring a “crumbling kitchen” when hiring “the next chef.”

Councilwoman Sandra Clements asked, “Where are we going to get the money?”

Williams responded, “I have to operate within the budget” approved by council.

Previously, the mayor instituted a nonessential personnel hiring freeze.

Ball stressed, “We need firefighters and public works (employees). I’m open to negotiating (the proposal) to something we can afford.”

Rick Simmons could not attend the work session. He later told HNN, “I’d like to hear public input [on the proposal].”

Hinting at the quandary of finding qualified replacements within a City Charter designated time frame, Mayor Williams alluded that in one scenario he could “make himself Director of Finance and Administration,” which is a position he has held before.  

Council must approve the Police Chief. The Director of Finance and Administration is an at will employee.

Williams asked council members to consider amendments to the first reading on Monday night. In addition, if the body does not agree with the concept, he asked that the matter be tabled.

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