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Afton city administrator negotiates salary hike

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Afton City Council decided City Administrator Ron Moorse has proven his skills and dedication to the city over the years.

That is why the council was willing to fight for Moorse following a job offer from the city of Belle Plaine, Minn.

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Afton City Council held a special meeting on Monday, May 19, and continued to May 20, to discuss revisions to Moorse’s contract to ensure his continued employment in Afton.

Mayor Dick Bend called the special meeting following discussions with Moorse.

“I wanted to bring this to the attention of the council as a whole as quickly as possible,” Bend said.

Moorse’s current contract with Afton pays him a salary of $75,000 annually for 30 hours per week.

Moorse also receives $500 per month to use as he chooses.

Council members expressed their desire to retain Moorse as city administrator.

“We’ve gone through a lot of administrators,” Council Member Randy Nelson said, “and things slip through the cracks when that happens every time.

“I’d hate to lose an important part of our team.”

The job offer

Moorse informed Bend on May 13 that he had received a higher-paying job offer from the city of Belle Plaine.

The offer consisted of a starting salary of $86,400 with a five-step increase schedule that reaches $100,450 by the fifth step.

Other terms of the offer included:

-- All step increases will reflect cost of living adjustments (COLA)

-- Ninety percent of the cost for a family health insurance plan, equivalent to about $2,433 per month, paid for by the city

-- One-hundred percent of the cost for a family dental plan, a cost of about $200 per month

-- $35,000 of term life insurance

-- Disability insurance

Moorse agreed to stay in Afton if the city matched Belle Plaine’s salary and health insurance offers.

“His value in Afton is not the same as his value in Belle Plaine,” Bend said, “so are we willing to pay the piper or not?”

Time to negotiate

During the special meeting City Council negotiated a number of contract items with Moorse before finally reaching an agreement.

There were two key items that were primarily discussed last week – the pay schedule and the termination/severance clause.

In regards to the pay schedule, Council Member Joe Richter expressed the most hesitation for steps four and five since it would mean the city would be paying an exponentially higher amount for a city administrator than it ever had before.

“It’s more than 5 percent of the budget going to one person,” he said.

After some discussion, City Council and Moorse reached an agreement to lower the step five salary from $100,450 to $99,000. Additionally, COLA not be included in steps four and five.

Richter also voiced hesitation with the pay schedule since it called for Moorse to begin at step one in July and then advance to step two in January in order to correlate with the yearly calendar.

Richter suggested correlating the steps with the contract anniversary, but Moorse said he was not comfortable working at the step one salary for that long.

“The steps are important to me because I’m trying to get to a certain level,” Moorse said. “That’s the level I need to get to.”

A compromise was reached with starting Moorse at a salary of $88,150, which splits the difference between steps one and two.

Moorse will stay at step one for one year from the contract start date before moving to step two, which is $89,900.

Council Member Peg Nolz said her main issue related to the proposed termination clause, which provided Moorse with six month-notice.

Nolz said she is not comfortable with it because if the city should want to buy out Moorse’s contract, it would be on the hook for six months’ salary.

Belle Plaine was offering Moorse four-month notice and one month severance.

After some back and forth between Moorse and City Council, both finally agreed to four-month notice or a combination of notice and severance equal to four months.

The new employment agreement that Moorse and City Council agreed to is:

-- A starting salary of $88,150 per year for 40 hours per week.

-- A five year salary increase schedule, going into effect every year on the contract anniversary of $89,900 at step two, $93,400 at step three, $96,900 at step four and $99,000 at step five

-- COLA increases will be awarded annually except in steps four and five

-- A health and dental insurance plan stipend totaling $2,200 per month

-- Four-month notice of termination or a combination of notice and severance totaling four months.

City Council will approve a formal contract at a later date.

“I’ve seen the cost of breaking up a winning team,” Bend said, “and we have the opportunity to continue being a winning team and  that’s about as good as it gets.” 

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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