City of Dover moves forward with plans to enact hiring freeze over city jobs.


    Dover City Council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee unanimously recommended a citywide hiring freeze at its Feb. 23 meeting.
 
   The freeze, if approved by the full council March 9, would be in effect for the remainder of the budget year, which ends June 30.

    In the event of critical positions that must be filled, department heads would come before council to ask for exceptions. The city already has been under an informal and voluntary hiring freeze for several months.
 
   Originally, City Manager Tony DePrima asked that a three-person panel of the manager, mayor and council president be used for the exceptions, but council members disagreed.
  
  Councilman Thomas Leary said he feels the freeze is “fait accompli” or something already accomplished, but he had strong objections to a panel.
 
   “I can imagine no position so critical that it can’t wait two weeks to get before leg and fin and the entire council. We’ve got 10 elected officials in the room, and I think we’re all equally responsible to the taxpayers and ratepayers and I’d like to see that authority remain right here,” he said.

    Councilwoman Beverly Williams agreed by saying the panel idea places the mayor and council president in a position to dictate to council, which is contrary to how they’ve operated in the past. Councilwoman Sophia Russell later added as a total body they need to come to decisions together.

    Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee Chair Timothy Slavin suggested keeping a standing item regarding the freeze on the committee’s agenda to make sure there is proper notification.
 
   After the meeting, DePrima said he agrees it’s better to bring positions before the council; he just was concerned with taking up too much time on the legislative and finance committee’s agenda when positions come forward.
In other business…

    • The second part of an independent report on the city’s Pay for Performance system was presented to the committee as well as discussing some implementation.

    The Management Advisory Group reported to the committee last October how salary grades and pay should be handled. Per the committee’s recommendation, July 1, 2008, salary increases were added to the report, which now shows 30 employees should be re-graded with 25 positions moving up and five positions moving down the scale.

    However, those re-grades wouldn’t mean any salary adjustments this budget year — with the exception of four positions — because of overlap with salary ranges across grades.
 
   DePrima said the four positions were his, the planning and inspections director, parks and recreation director, and the information technology director. The IT director already receives an extra week of vacation, which would negate any need for an increase, he added.
 
   On Feb. 12, the remaining three employees wrote a letter to the mayor and city council.

    “Given the economy that we’re in right now and the budget situation we’d like, and we all agreed that, our names be withdrawn,” DePrima said.

    Councilman Reuben Salters said it’s magnanimous for them to volunteer to delay pay raises, as most of council members are very concerned with finances now.

    “It’s going to be tough to be generous,” he said of employee salaries.

    DePrima said out of the 90 non-bargaining employees, 87 are being fairly paid, according to the study.
 
   “In other words, we’re been doing the pay for performance better than we thought,” Salters said.
 
   “I would say, yes,” DePrima replied.

    Despite DePrima’s assurance the action to re-grade salary wouldn’t cost the city any money, committee members and council members listening had more questions than there was time to answer.
 
   Williams, who was listening as a council member, said she wants to make sure the re-grades are entirely vetted with ample time and in a public format at a time when their counterparts are looking at salary decreases.

    The committee voted 3-1 to table action on the re-grades.

    • The committee also approved a proposed charter change that would streamline the annexation process, making annexation and zoning changes at the same time.

Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com