BUCKHANNON – During a recent City of Buckhannon Water Board meeting, Water Board members along with mayor Robbie Skinner discussed the need to review wages paid to Buckhannon city workers.
At the Water Board’s July 14 meeting, Skinner said once the City of Buckhannon’s four enterprise boards – the Water Board, the Waste Board, the Sanitary Sewer Board and the Consolidated Public Works Board – determine comparable salaries in the area, he would like the board to make a recommendation to the Revenue Review Committee regarding wages for Buckhannon Water Department employees. Skinner told Water Board members he felt it was pertinent that every board submit recommendations to the recently re-established Revenue Review Committee.
Buckhannon City Council typically evaluates city employees’ salaries annually during the budgeting process for each fiscal year; however, no across-the-board wage increases were built into the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget. At the time, city officials said they were holding off on increasing wages until the General Fund Revenue Review Committee could study financial data.
“We have re-ignited the Revenue Review Committee that former Mayor David McCauley started in 2017,” Skinner explained to Water Board members. “We need to take a look, holistically, in this city. We have created rubrics and we have a system, but we need to make updates to that, and we probably need to make some tweaks and update where we are paying certain positions.”
Skinner said he would like for every board to submit recommendations to the Revenue Review Committee. At city council’s regular July 7 meeting, Skinner announced City of Buckhannon appointments for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, including members of the General Fund Revenue Review Committee. They include Skinner; councilman Jack Reger; councilman David Thomas; city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins; city hall employee Barb Hinkle, who assists Jenkins with budgets; and Waste Board member Scott Randall.
“It doesn’t mean the Revenue Review Committee is going to approve 100 percent of the recommendations, but I would like them to review and then turn around and make recommendations of wages to Buckhannon City Council,” Skinner said. “This committee has representation from all of our enterprise boards – Scott Randall is representing from the Waste Department, Dave Thomas is representing the Water Department, I will be on it as well as will [city finance and administrative director] Amby Jenkins and Barb [Hinkle], and Jack Reger will be on it from the Consolidated Public Works Board. That is what I would like to do.”
Skinner said he wanted all the department heads to gather information and provide some context and insight to the Revenue Review Committee for them to look at using a holistic approach.
Skinner said the city’s Water Board looks heavily at what the municipalities of Weston and Clarksburg because they pay their employees significantly higher wages. He said the Fire Department looks at Elkins and Bridgeport to make comparisons.
“Every department is different,” he said. “For the Waste Board, we look at private companies to compare because the biggest issue is keeping drivers. Our geography is both a blessing and a curse; we are blessed to be in this part of West Virginia because economically, it is stronger than southern West Virginia, but at the same time, if you are in Lewisburg, you are in Lewisburg. They are the same distance to the next town as we are from Morgantown, but in between here you catch Weston, Clarksburg and Fairmont and Elkins is just over here. You can live here, and work over there and not uproot your family. So, it is a blessing and a curse.”
Councilman and Water Board member David McCauley made a motion to direct water superintendent Kelly Arnold to gather information to submit to the Revenue Review Committee, which will then begin looking at the wage rates holistically. The motion was seconded by Water Board member Don Nestor, and it passed unanimously.
McCauley said that when comparing salaries and benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that private companies cannot compete with the City of Buckhannon’s pension plan. However, as a result of inflation, water plant operators and distributors are laser-focused on wages, not retirement plans and benefit packages.
“Drivers across the board are not looking at benefits but are looking at wages,” Arnold said. “The price of bread is up, so they are looking at the hourly wages so they can support their families – they are not worried about benefits at this time.”