Pay scale boosts salaries to help city in job market

HARLINGEN — Some people might think Harlingen can’t compete in the job market with cities like Mission and Edinburg.

The reason — wages.

That’s why for the first time in about nine years, the city’s pay scale is changing.

City commissioners have approved a new pay table boosting salaries in most positions.

For about a year, city officials have been revising the pay scale to better compete with similar cities in the Rio Grande Valley, City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday.

“From time to time, we compare pay scales with other like-sized cities in the Valley,” Serna said. “We found some salaries lagging behind. We made some adjustments to be competitive in the job market.”

For example, while the assistant city manager’s current minimum salary is set at $92,283, the position’s maximum salary pays $129,196.

Under the new pay scale, the assistant city manager’s minimum salary will be set at $95,000 while the position’s maximum salary will pay $145,000.

“We want employees to be able to grow within a position,” Serna said. “I want to hold on to talented, experienced and trained personnel to provide the citizens with the highest level of service because that’s what our citizens deserve.”

The new pay scale, effective in November, adjusts city positions’ minimum and maximum salaries but does not increase employees’ salaries.

Criteria used to set a position’s pay scale include experience, accountability and management skills.

The new pay scale boosts the number of hourly employees who qualify for overtime pay, Human Resources Director Efren Fernandez said.

Out of 578 positions, the number of salaried positions was cut from 75 to 41.

The new pay scale coincides with a new federal overtime law effective Dec. 1.

New federal guidelines will classify salaried employees as making at least $913 a week, or $47,476 a year.

Currently, employers must pay overtime to workers making less than $455 a week.

To keep down overtime pay, salaried employees might be working more, Fernandez said.

“We’re going to do our darndest to keep overtime down,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said department heads will set work schedules so hourly workers won’t work over 40 hours a week.

Officials did not project the impact of future salary increases on the city’s budget.