Next time a bigger city comes courting for talent, Menlo Park's management staff may have more reason to pass up the offer.
At least, that was the goal of a number of changes to the city's salary schedule that a pared-down Menlo Park City Council approved Tuesday, on a 2-1 vote. The action increases the maximum salaries for a non-unionized group of about 25 managerial staff positions.
Council members voted on March 13, with Vice Mayor Ray Mueller opposed and council members Catherine Carlton and Kirsten Keith absent, to approve increases in the maximum salaries as large as 17 percent.
The matter needed only a majority of a quorum of council members present to pass, according to City Attorney Bill McClure.
Among the positions that would see the greatest proportional increase in maximum salary are:
● Police commander: to $215,426 from $184,579 (a 17 percent increase).
● Library services director: to $215,426 from $185,115 (a 16 percent increase).
● Police chief: to $236,969, from $205,087 (a 15 percent increase).
About a quarter of the city's management positions are now vacant, according to Lenka Diaz, the city's human resources manager.
The higher maximum salary is intended to be used for marketing purposes to hire for a number of currently vacant management positions, according to Ms. Diaz.
Several other changes were proposed and approved to create more consistency and more equal earning potential for similar management-level jobs, she added.
No single staff member would receive a raise as a result of the changes, she said. Management staff are generally considered eligible for pay raises during merit reviews in July or August each year, according to a staff report.
Mr. Mueller said he opposed the measure because, compared with all of the other cities in San Mateo County, Menlo Park isn't as far behind the median as the smaller subset of larger cities that the staff used as comparisons indicated.
Cities used in the comparisons, some of which are in Santa Clara County, include Belmont, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Sunnyvale.
Councilman Rich Cline, who supported the measure, commented on the challenge of striking a balance between trying to match the pay rates of a big city, which he said could be "dangerous," while having sufficient staff to accomplish the tasks the city needs done.
"We're not Sunnyvale by any means," he said. "We also have a pretty significant employer who takes up a lot of staff time and resources."
City Manager Alex McIntyre argued that the city is losing managers to larger cities – most recently, Assistant City Manager Chip Taylor took a job as public works director for Sunnyvale – and indicated he expects to retain and recruit employees more competitively with higher maximum salaries.
In January, Mr. McIntyre reported to the council that some Menlo Park staffers get unsolicited calls from other cities asking them to come work there without applying, with some offering better pay or shorter commutes.
"It remains a poaching game," he said. "All we're doing is poaching each other's candidates."
Belle Haven resident Cecilia Taylor said in a public comment that rather than increasing the salary ranges for the city's top earners, she wants the city to focus its efforts on creating a minimum wage ordinance and increasing pay for the lowest-earning jobs on the city's payroll, one of which is listed as offering only $12 an hour.
That position is the recreation coordinator, Ms. Diaz said, and at the time it was reviewed, the pay rate was not below the median compared with other cities.
Mayor Peter Ohtaki said the city should perhaps consider reviewing the pay rates for those low-earning jobs.
A full list of the approved salary range increases can be accessed here.