A proposed 10 percent pay raise for the Oak Ridge city manager will make his pay more competitive with the average salary for top municipal officials, a council member said last week.
The salary increase for City Manager Mark Watson was recommended by a three-member City Council committee after his pay was compared to other city managers across Tennessee and in other U.S. Department of Energy cities across the country, said Chuck Hope, chair of the City Manager Evaluation Committee. The committee, which includes Vice Mayor Jane Miller and Council member Charlie Hensley, also considered the responses to questionnaires sent out to all seven Council members, asking them to rate Watson’s performance in five categories.
“This is just an adjustment of his base pay to get him more competitive,” Hope said. It takes the average city manager’s salary in Tennessee into account as well as the market conditions that might have to be considered if Oak Ridge had to replace Watson.
He said Watson has been on the job three full years and is doing “positive and good things.” Among other things, the city manager is increasing his own professional knowledge and pursuing additional higher education opportunities, Hope said.
During the past few years, Watson’s raises have matched the cost-of-living increases given to city employees, Hope said. They received a 1 percent pay raise this year.
But he also cited the salary of Bruce Borchers, the new Oak Ridge Schools superintendent, who was hired in April at an annual salary of $178,000. Both leaders have about the same number of employees, but Watson is currently paid about $136,000, or about $40,000 per year less than Borchers.
If council approves the pay raise tonight, Watson would earn a new annual base salary of $150,321.60, effective Aug. 8, 2013. He started in Oak Ridge about three years ago at an annual salary of $131,996.80.
The pay raise was unanimously recommended by the three-member City Manager Evaluation Committee. It would require that Watson’s employment agreement be amended.
In an Aug. 22 memo, Hope said the recommended increase is based on council member’s evaluations of Watson and his performance during the previous year.
“The committee recommends its adoption as a measure of compensation for the city manager’s excellent performance as indicated by the evaluations completed by the council members,” Hope said.
A survey of city manager salaries in other U.S. Department of Energy “sister cities” found the city manager in Paducah, Ky., earns $142,209.60; the one in Los Alamos County, N.M., makes $169,671.90; and another in Richland, Wash., is paid $153,421.
Meanwhile, other city managers in Tennessee in cities with populations between 15,000 and 100,000 last year earned salaries that ranged from a minimum of $74,785 (Tullahoma) to a maximum of $163,856 (Murfreesboro).