Mount Pleasant Town Council meets

Mount Pleasant Town Hall Complex. File

MOUNT PLEASANT — Town employees would receive pay raises of 4 to 10 percent in July under proposed budget plans because a recent study concluded that they are underpaid.

“This is a major component of the budget next year,” Town Administrator Eric DeMoura told members of the Town Council’s Human Resources Committee on Monday.

The proposed raises would consume nearly 2 percent of the town’s total budget, but no tax increase is anticipated.

Mount Pleasant has the equivalent of 592 full-time employees who earn an average of $48,310.

Last year town employees received raises ranging from 4 to 5 percent, but a study conducted by Evergreen Solutions concluded that they were still earning less than those employed by comparable governments in South Carolina, ranging from towns and cities to public utilities and school districts.

“Salaries were below market, when compared to peers,” Mount Pleasant Human Resources Officer Meghan Kelly told the council members.

The town’s benefit plans were, however, “very competitive” according to the study, which the town commissioned.

The proposed raises would cost the town more than $1.7 million in the budget year that starts July 1. The town’s total budget for the coming year is proposed to be $99.79 million.

“It’s needed,” DeMoura said of the planned pay hikes, which council will later consider.

The proposed raises, like the raises awarded by the town last year, are higher than those seen recently in the private sector. The Society for Human Resource Management reviewed multiple surveys in August and found that average raises were about 3 percent in 2015, and the same was expected this year.

Evergreen Solutions also reviewed Charleston County pay rates for elected officials in 2015, which resulted in 44 percent pay hikes for members of Charleston County Council and double-digit raises for other county elected officials.

If employee pay has lagged in Mount Pleasant, compared with other governmental organizations in the state, it’s partly due to austerity measures during the recession. Town employees received no raises in 2010 or 2011, followed by annual raises based on merit in each of the three following years.

Unlike the previous performance-based raises, the ones proposed in July would be based upon competitive compensation rates determined by the pay study. The minimum wage for a town employee, other than temporary part-time workers, would become $10.10 hourly.

The town could afford to pay the proposed raises without a tax increase because Mount Pleasant’s revenues have been rising as the economy recovers. The budget has increased by more than 10 percent in the past two years, a rise of $9.2 million.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.