COEUR d’ALENE — City employees are paid more and have more generous benefits packages than their peers in Idaho’s other metropolitan areas, according to a study contracted by the city.
On average, pay at the city of Coeur d’Alene is more than 12 percent above market for general employees, almost 6 percent higher for sworn police positions and about 4 percent higher for fire department positions, according to the study completed by BDPA, Inc., a human resources consulting group based in Boise.
BDPA was hired by the city last year for $33,000 as part of a periodic study of public sector job descriptions, and how the city as an employer stacks up with other markets statewide.
The group compared pay and benefits for 76 positions at the city of Coeur d’Alene with similar class descriptions in 11 markets including Boise, Caldwell, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Meridian, Nampa, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Post Falls, Kootenai County and Spokane.
Consultants Andrea Fogleman and Bonnie Brazier compiled the results by interviewing employees, consulting with supervisors and converting job descriptions to valuation. That means the value of the job was based on its requirements, not its title or qualifications.
Valuation considered factors such as knowledge and responsibility, problem solving, customer service, decision making and working conditions, Fogleman said in a two-hour presentation Thursday before the City Council and administrators.
BDPA found Coeur d’Alene was a top-tier employer with a longevity of more than 10 years for employees, at least a year longer than similar markets. City employees have the potential in nine years to earn 40 percent more than they did when they were hired.
The 5 percent annual pay increase is an anomaly in Idaho, Brazier said.
“Offering 5 percent is really unheard of in the state,” Brazier said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Most markets offer 2 to 3 percent annual increases.
Single city employees pay zero percent of their medical and dental premium as well as longterm disability, while vacation and sick leave among Coeur d’Alene’s city employees is greater than the surveyed average.
The city contributes to an employee health care reimbursement plan as well as a deductible buydown.
“A lot of cities we work with have a deductible buydown, or a contribution,” Fogleman said. “You have both.”
Of its 350 employees, the city has only 12 employees in nine positions who were underpaid, according to the survey.
The council elected Thursday to bring those employees up to scale — a move that cost the city $59,000. The increase was partially paid through attrition, finance director Troy Tymesen said. It did not require a budget amendment.
Human Resource director Melissa Tosi said the survey was long overdue. The last one was conducted 15 years ago.
“It shows we’re paying people as we should,” Tosi said.
The city has a low turnover rate. Its pay and benefits help retain employees and prevents them from being pulled to larger markets like nearby Spokane.
“With recruitment and retention, we’re in very good spot.” Tosi said. “It makes it easier for HR to retain and recruit.”
The city works with three unions whose contracts expire next year. Negotiations have not been scheduled but are expected to begin in the next couple of months.