Salary raises granted while taxes rise

If a public entity plans to operate it has to pay its employees – whether property tax rates are raised, remain steady or dip that year.

As far as granting raises during the same year it is also asking to increase the tax rate, the city of Marshalltown, the school district and Marshall County are all in the same boat this year on that issue.

Leaders from all three public entities are claiming lower property tax valuations as the reason for the tax rate increase.

The city of Marshalltown, which has approved a 58-cent tax rate increase, employs 196 full and part time staff. Most city staff are receiving salary increases of 2.35 percent this year, with fire department staff getting a 2.1 percent salary increase, said Jill Petermeier, human resources director with the city.

While raises during a year when taxes are going up might not be that well received by the public, Petermeier said these salary increases help the city attract quality employees.

“I’ve got to recruit and retain employees,” Petermeier said. “So we’ve got to stay competitive in our wages and benefits to do that.”

Petermeier looks at salary settlements around the state and the city attempts to be in the ballpark as far as a range of increase.

“Some of the cities got 2 percent and the highest I saw was 3 percent,” Petermeier said.

They also look at current salaries in similar-sized Iowa communities such as Burlington, Ottumwa and Fort Dodge and see how they compare to the Marshalltown.

“I think we are competitive,” Petermeier said.

Colleen Springer, vice chancellor of administrative services at Iowa Valley Community College District, said they also keep tabs on salaries in other communities.

“We receive comparative data from other Iowa community colleges that we monitor,” Springer said.

Iowa Valley was the only public taxing body in Marshalltown which did not raise its tax rate this year. The college district is currently in negotiations as far as salaries for the next fiscal year.

In the Marshalltown Community School District, a total of $32.82 million out of $56 million in expenditures was spent on staff salaries this past fiscal year. By adding up salaries and benefits, that number represents 77 percent of the school district general fund, said Kevin Posekany, business manager with the district.

The school district is raising its tax rate by 62 cents for the next fiscal year. This year will most likely also include some type of staff raises, though that percentage has not been set as negotiations continue.

Marshall County also has given staff raises of 2 percent amid its tax rate increase of 20 cents.