St. Charles firefighters get raises, will study wages for other employees

  • St. Charles firefighters will get raises for the next four years under a new union contract approved by aldermen Monday.

      St. Charles firefighters will get raises for the next four years under a new union contract approved by aldermen Monday. James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 

One group of St. Charles employees locked in four years worth of raises Monday night even as aldermen set the stage to possibly hike the salaries of all other city workers.

It only took about 2 minutes for aldermen to unanimously approve a new, four-year contract with the St. Charles Professional Firefighter's Association I.A.F.F. local 3322. The agreement is retroactive to May 1. It expires April 30, 2020. The deal locks in raises of 2 percent each of the first three years. The final year calls for a 2.5 percent raise.

The department has about 50 full-time employees -- around 18 percent of the city's 269-person workforce. About 66 percent of the city's general fund spending goes to pay the salaries, benefits and pensions of those employees.

A new, $29,640 study will help determine if all those employees receive a competitive wage.

Aldermen gave preliminary approval to contract with Naperville-based Sikich for the study. The company also conducts the city's annual financial audits and wrote the city's strategic plan.

Aldermen Todd Bancroft and Maureen Lewis voted "no" on the contract. Bancroft said three deals with the same organization is too much familiarity for his liking.

"I like an independent consultant who is brought in for a specific task for with one objective in mind, one who does not have relationships with staff or other business ties," Bancroft said. "I feel this was a comfortable choice. I'm less worried about spreading the wealth and more worried about having a professional who isn't thinking about (getting the contract for) next year's audit or the next strategic plan."

City administrator Mark Koenen said it is Sikitch's familiarity with the city that pushed them to the top of the list of companies bidding for the contract. He believes city employees and aldermen will be more comfortable meeting with familiar faces. Koenen also said the city audits and strategic plan will have no bearing or relationship to the wage study work.

The city first put its current compensation philosophy in place 20 years ago. The idea is to pay wages higher than 75 percent of comparable communities within 20 miles of St. Charles. The study will determine who the city's competitors are and what current best management practice is for employee wages.

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