JACKSONVILLE —  The City Council on Monday heard the results of a personnel report that suggests city administrators extend the period of time needed for employees to reach their maximum salary, a move they hope will encourage longtime workers to stay and seek promotions.

Researchers with Jacksonville State University produced the report, which Jacksonville’s financial control officer Jared Simmons presented to the council during its meeting Monday.

“Over the last eight months, they’ve been compiling information and comparing us to other cities,” said Simmons. “They came back with a couple recommendations that don’t necessarily affect the current hourly rate that an employee is earning, but it looks at the topout level over the life of a career.”

According to the report, Jacksonville is adequately compensating  its 250 employees, given the city’s size and current economic conditions. Simmons said the city decided to review the current compensation plan at some point during the fall and authorized the agreement with Jacksonville State at the end of October.

Currently, Jacksonville determines employees’ salaries by job descriptions and responsibilities, along with a yearly review to determine whether employees have met their objectives. If an employee has met his objectives, he will receive a 3 percent increase in salary.

“Typically when someone is hired in, they’re hired in at one of the earlier steps and each year they go through an annual evaluation in assuming that they’re meeting their objectives and they advance to the next step,” said Simmons. “Essentially a step recognizes a year’s service. Jobs are classified into a range based on responsibility.”

According to city officials, the extension will most likely benefit emergency responders toward the end of their careers.

“The assistant chief can easily make more than I make,” said Jacksonville police Chief T.L. Thompson, who has been earning his maximum allocated salary for more than 26 years. “In the scheme of things, that would be nice because we’re having trouble keeping folks later on.”

The report recommends a number of increases in hourly compensation rates for individuals at maximum salary, including the police chief. Currently, the chief is assigned a maximum rate of $28.66 per hour. The report recommends the maximum rate to raised to $37.40.  

City officials say this is a common occurrence, as overtime and hourly requirement differences between positions allow subordinates to earn a higher salary.

“My salary is based on a 40-hour work week, whereas the firefighters are based on a 50-hour work week,” said Jacksonville fire Chief Wade Buckner. “When you look at the hourly rate, it is less for them, but at the end of the week it winds up that they’re making more.”

The report made no suggestions for decreases in salary, though the fire chief is still slated to make less than his subordinates under the proposed system.

“If you want a department to have good direction and be headed on a steady course, it makes sense to invest in the people in succession,” said Buckner. “In this particular case there’s no incentive for the assistant chief to move up.”

The council plans to meet on Monday to discuss the report further and gather feedback from city department heads.

Staff Writer Tim Steere: 256-235-3551. On Twitter @tsteere_Star.