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Berlin pay structure to be reformed based on results of study

Kelsey Jensen presents a proposal for a new pay scale for Berlin employees to the Berlin Council.

By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Nov. 30, 2023) The Town of Berlin will revamp its wage scales based on a study conducted by PayPoint HR, an Anne Arundel County professional services firm, which found compensation of municipal employees lagging by an average of 8.5 percent across all departments.

The economic development department was the lowest at 22 percent below market and electric utilities was closer to on par with the market at 0.1 percent above market.

PayPoint HR recommended in its report that the town consider compensation adjustments for all job titles, a comprehensive approach, with no wage reductions.

The cost would be about $370,000 to bring every employee to 50 percent of the market rate for their positions, according to Berlin Human Resources Director Kelsey Jensen.

While the goal is to bring wages up to competitive levels with other small towns, the council decided that the focus should be to get all staff established in a newly developed grade and step structure similar to what the federal government uses.

The structure has 25 grades and 21 steps in each grade. Salaries range from $31,200 to $164,883.

“This will give employees consistency year after year,” said Councilmember Dean Burrell.

“This is a win for employees, a win for council and a win for residents due to its transparency,” Councilmember Jay Knerr said.

Jensen told the council the grade and step structure makes it easier to build a budget and is more transparent for hiring and current staff.

With this structure agreed to, Jensen and Town Administrator Mary Bohlen will assign a grade to each position and present that proposal to the council. The council will not vote on the assigned grades but will have the opportunity to comment on them.

Employees can expect wage/step increases on their anniversary date and will be able to see and know that increase by looking at a grade and step chart. Current employees will be placed in a grade based on their positions and Jenson and Bohlen will determine their step based on the length of time in the position and in the town’s employ.

Those with long-term tenure could max out on the steps and at that point, only get cost-of-living or COLA increases in their salary. Bohlen estimated that there are less than 10 employees who are in that position.

New employees will be placed on the grade scale based on their position and then the step will be determined based on their experience, training and if they held a previous position in the town.

The pay structure should be in place for next fiscal year, according to Jensen. The town attempted a similar structure years ago but did not fully implement it.

“We need to make sure we are implementing what we are putting out there,” Councilmember Shaneka Nichols said.