With hopes of recruiting and retaining skilled employees for what they hope is an entire career, the Frankfort Plant Board on Tuesday approved a 4.2% raise for roughly 70% of its staff — the second such pay increase in the past two years.
The compensation plan, which was originally agreed upon by board members five years ago, aims to bring FPB employees to the mid-point of market value for their jobs in a high-demand marketplace, according to David Denton, chief financial officer, who reiterated that the municipal utility spends a lot of money, time and effort training staff in their areas of expertise.
FPB Chairwoman Anna Marie Pavlik Rosen and board member Dawn Hale both touted the significance of the pay raise to show appreciation for the experience and institutional knowledge their workers provide. Hale specifically pointed to a tour she recently took at an electrical substation. She said it is the employees who make FPB the safest, most reliable electric system.
“It drove home to me how important it is to maintain our employees and not just become the training ground,” she said at Tuesday's meeting.
But the pay hike didn’t resonate with at least one board member. Stephen Mason, the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote to adopt the raise as part of the 2019-20 budget, said he couldn’t “in good conscience” support what he termed an approximately 9% pay raise over two years.
“That’s while the ratepayers, who pay this — the public employees out in Franklin County — haven’t gotten anywhere close to that,” he said, adding that he agrees with many items in the budget, including a customer rebate and setting aside funding for water bottle refilling stations in Franklin County schools. “I can’t vote for that.”
Mason makes a valid point. We believe FPB employees deserve a raise to keep them more in line with industry standards but not the comparatively hefty 4.2% raises they have received in back-to-back years.
Each year the Social Security Administration makes Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) to the supplemental income of retirees, veterans and disabled Americans — many of whom are FPB ratepayers. In the past seven years, the highest COLA was 3.6% in 2012. The lowest was zero three years ago. For 2019, the SSA set the COLA at 2.8% — 1.4% less than FPB employees received in two consecutive years.
COLA might make a good benchmark for future FPB raises.