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Pay bump possible for Nevada City officials

Nevada City officials, including the police chief, city manager and public works director, may receive significant pay increases during the next three years.

Possible pay raises this year of 7 to 11 percent for 25 city workers may begin the multi-year process, according to City Manager Mark Miller.

Nevada City cited a need to keep the salaries competitive with some neighboring cities, though comparisons are difficult by the city’s own admission.



The city manager earned $79,500, the police chief collected $73,000, and the public works director earned $63,750 as of April, excluding benefits, according to city records.

The proposed increases come at an seemingly awkward time.




Not only is the county facing an economic slowdown, but the Nevada City government has run into recent criticism. A scathing grand jury report criticized the city’s handling of its finances, and some residents have complained about inadequate police enforcement of panhandlers and alcohol and drug abusers in city parks and downtown.

The grand jury report was titled “Asleep at the Wheel.”

In addition, long-time city clerk Cathy Wilcox-Barnes sued the city two months ago, alleging wrongful termination, whistle-blower violations, defamation and numerous other allegations. Wilcox-Barnes was put on paid leave last year during an independent investigation into the city’s finances.

Miller said the city has made major strides collecting more than “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in city fees in recent months. The city also has hired a new finance manager.

“The performance of our employees has been exceptional,” Miller added.

Officials don’t yet know how much the increases will boost the city’s pension liability, but city officials will consider a pension benefit formula when deciding raises, said City Manager Mark Miller.

Some of the city workers are nearing retirement age and already are drawing pensions from previous public work experience – known as “double dipping.”

Five city workers are at least 50 years, including Miller, City Engineer Bill Falconi, Public Works Director Verne Taylor, Police Chief Lou Trovato and Water Plant Operator Chris Towne, although none of them have announced plans to retire, Miller said.

“We’re competing (for workers) against Grass Valley and cities many times bigger than we are,” he said.

Salaries ranging from 23 percent to 38 percent below market value include: police chief, public works director, city manager and fire captain, Miller said. The police chief’s salary is one-third below market value, he said.

City officials collected 2006 salary information from Grass Valley, Jackson, Sonora, Placerville, Auburn, Nevada County, Oroville, Colfax and Marysville for the comparison.

Finding comparable governments isn’t easy, Miller said. The other cities typically are larger than Nevada City.

“We’re about as small of a full-service city as there is,” Miller said.

Pay raises are key to retaining good employees, he said. Any raises will be based on performance, he said.

Without comparable salaries, polices officers have left Nevada City, Trovato said. The police chief has argued he needs more personnel to address some of the residential complaints.

The city recently hired two community service officers to patrol streets, writing parking tickets and handling loitering and panhandling complaints.

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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