Raises for four department heads were approved by the Searcy City Council last week totaling nearly $30,000, including benefits.
The head of Searcy’s district court, Linda Wiseman, received the biggest increase, going from $45,000 in salary to $55,000. The other three department heads (Jeff Webb for the Code Enforcement Department, Roger Pearson for the Searcy Municipal Airport and Mike Parsons for Searcy Parks and Recreation) each were raised to $70,000.
Benefits take the total increases for Wiseman to $12,297, Pearson to $6,148.50, Webb to $5,544.30 and Parsons $5,544.18.
The raises go into effect next week.
Personnel Committee Chairman Rodger Cargile said the committee’s recommendation for the raises followed “research into other cities and towns, other department heads, not just around us but through the [Arkansas] Municipal League – they publish salaries of different cities’ department heads – and just doing Google searching, trying to find what other department heads make comparable ... not only comparable for the position but we try to get as comparable as we can with length of time they’ve been with the city.”
“There were a lot of things that went into that formula that we used,” Cargile said. “What we were trying to do from day one when this committee formed was to look at every department, every employee. We started with trying to get the city’s minimum wage to $15 [per hour] which we did. Then we looked at each department, trying to get every department on a step and grade so it’s a little more uniform as far as raises go. What is figured in that is your length of time with the city – basically how long you have been with the city or how long you stay with the city. Department heads were always on the list.
“We did a couple of raises along the way but we really didn’t dive into department heads until recently and after doing some study and looking at the Municipal League and what they published about comparable towns, our size, in and around central Arkansas and towns our size outside of central Arkansas. I had said when I was put on this committee by [former] Mayor [Kyle] Osborne, there’s a high probability if you were employed by the city of Searcy, you were underpaid. Our priority was getting our employees to $15 [per hour] and taking it department by department after that.”
The council also approved step and grade raises for the courts department last week as salary for a new firefighter for a total of $91,421.37 from the general fund unappropriated reserves.
Total salaries for district court, other than the department head, increase by $13,457.60, plus $1,029.51 for the Social Security/Medicare and $2,061.70 APERS retirement.
The salary for the new firefighter is $38,870, with $563.62 for Social Security/Medicare match and $5,904.96 for health care.
Although fire department starting pay is $13, Fire Chief Brian Dunavan explained last October that “fire is calculated completely different from everybody else.”
“Most people think of an annual year as 40 hours a week, which is true for most departments and everything else,” Dunavan said then, when the new pay rates were approved by the council. “But the fire working 12-hour shifts is a whole different animal, so their salary is figured on, I think it’s 2,756 straight-time hours and then they automatically get 156 hours annually at time and a half, so it works out to their salary is on par with other departments, but their base pay if you will, their hourly pay, is not the $15.”
The council also transferred $2,006,748.33 allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act funds for use for police, fire and other public safety services that were authorized in the ordinance adopted April 11. Those include:
$932,070.76 from police department salaries to police department “ARPA Salaries.”
$71,303.41 from police department Social Security/Medicare match to police department ARPA/SS/Medicare match.
$989,033.18 from fire department salaries to fire department ARPA salaries.
$14,340.98 from fire department Social Security/Medicare match to fire department ARPA/SS/Medicare match.
The salary increases approved by the council are in addition to more than $1.6 million in new pay rates for city employees that were implemented at the beginning of the year. The raises were recommended by the city’s Personnel Committee.
The city’s salary total for 2023 at that time was $13,036,660.80, according to information provided by the city.
Cargile said there are a few departments left that still need to have step and grades set up, but the biggest have been taken care of.
“The departments that are left to work with now have very few people in them so it will not be as difficult,” he said. “We got the big hard ones behind us. I think there will always be a need to continually look at ... we have gotten a couple of requests from department heads to look at appointments or promotions to a title, like assistant, to give someone maybe a different job title and job description, shifting around a little bit that does not necessarily affect the budget or dollar amount.”
He mentioned Andrew Bogan, who was promoted from battalion chief to assistant fire chief by the council last week without receiving a pay change. “That’s a great example. ... We have got a couple requests from a couple of other departments to give a second-in-command position to so there would be someone in charge on a job site or a specific job site.”
“As far as raises go, we’re pretty close to the end of what we set out to do but one more time, I think we will always be looking at this,” Cargile said. “We will always be continually evaluating our employees and the pay scale.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.