Amid Vacancies, City Seeks Pay-Pension Bump



Paul Bass File Photo

Librandi: Successor findable?

The Elicker Administration is looking to boost pension benefits and salary ranges for some top City Hall positions in a bid to reverse a rising tide of vacancies — which now includes the city’s hiring manager, whose last day on the job was Friday.

The search to replace the hiring manager, city human resources chief Stephen Librandi, is expected to be a challenge amid a labor shortage and given New Haven’s lower compensation compared to that offered by some other communities. 

As New Haven searches for Librandi’s replacement, his job responsibilities have been broken up and spread across several staffers and the Department of Human Resources team will work under the direction of Chief Administrative Officer Regina Rush-Kittle, according to mayoral spokesperson Len Speiller. 

Meanwhile, Librandi and other top administrators recently pitched alders on a legislative proposal submitted by the Elicker Administration focused on hiring and retention at the highest city government ranks. They did so during the latest regular meeting of the Board of Alders Finance Committee, which was held in person in the Aldermanic Chamber on the second floor of City Hall.

After hearing the pitch, the committee alders voted unanimously in support of the proposal, which now goes to the full Board of Alders for review and a final vote.

The proposed ordinance amendment calls on the alders to approve adopting changes to Article 18 (Pension) of the Executive Management and Confidential Employees’ Personnel and Procedures Manual clarifying the pension benefits of the positions of Chief of Staff, Budget Director and Chief Technology Officer; and including the City Budget Director, Chief Technology Officer and Manager of Human Resources and Benefits as Key Employees,” per the title of the proposed law itself.

As Librandi and mayoral Chief of Staff Sean Matteson explained to the committee alders at the Monday night hearing, the purpose of this proposal is to make certain top City Hall jobs more attractive — and more competitive in the public sector job market — by increasing their pensions and salary ranges.

Specifically, if approved by the full Board of Alders, the requested change would increase the so-called pension benefit multiplier” for the chief of staff, budget director, and chief technology officer positions from 20 to 40 percent of their final budgeted salary or the average of their last five years’ salaries — but only if those city government administrators start out in a municipal union job and then work their way up the ranks of City Hall. 

The proposed law change would also elevate the roles of budget director, chief technology officer, and human resources manager to so-called key employee” salary ranges of between $100,000 and $169,000 per year, with the final negotiated number for each position ultimately to be approved by the Board of Alders.

It is no secret it is a changing world and it is ever more so difficult to both attract and retain city employees,” Matteson told the committee alders. We do not seek to be competing with the private sector. We cannot possibly match the private sector in its pay, but we do try to be competitive with other municipalities for those that are interested in public sector work.”

City Budget Director Mike Gormany and Deputy CAO Rebecca Bombero.

City Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Bombero offered a similar perspective when pitching a different city-job-reclassification proposal on Monday night. That proposal also won the committee’s recommendation of approval.

The city is seeing an unprecedented number of vacancies right now, and attraction for those positions continues to be a challenge,” she said.

Both legislative proposals comes as the city has roughly 290 vacancies for 1,456 budgeted positions, according to a recent count provided to the Independent by the city’s spokesperson for a different article about staffing shortages at the library.

It also comes as Friday marked the last day on the job for Librandi, who is retiring after spending more than a decade in the role of City Hall manager responsible for overseeing all human resources, civil service and medical benefits operations.”

The requested law change now advances to the full Board of Alders for a further review, debate, and a potential final vote later this fall.

Librandi: Public Sector Hiring Harder Than Before

Librandi.

Matteson said that changing pension benefits for the chief of staff, budget director, and chief technology officer positions is a matter of fairness and some equity.”

These positions are responsible for similar types of work and responsibilities” as city department heads and coordinators.” But, he said, because they don’t bear those high-ranking designations in city law or the charter, they receive a lesser pension benefit than others. He said this is particularly unfair if someone starts out in a municipal union job, and is therefore a member of the City Employee Retirement Fund (CERF), and then has to forsake that higher pension benefit if they succeed in moving up to one of these higher level positions.

This change would eliminate that inequity,” Matteson said, by preserving the higher pension benefit only for city workers who work their ways up from a CERF-eligible city union job to chief of staff, budget director, or chief technology officer. (Matteson pointed out that, while he is currently chief of staff, he would not personally benefit from this requested change, because he did not work his way up to that role from a previous municipal-union job.)

The second requested change would move the positions of budget director, chief technology officer, and human resources manager into what’s known as Key Employees,’ ” Matteson said. 

The salary range for key employees” is between $100,000 and $169,000. The city then negotiates with the relevant prospective employees to try to come to an agreement.” Those individual salaries must ultimately be signed off on by the Board of Alders.

These key employee” jobs — which already include such positions as police chief, fire chief, health director, and corporation counsel — are vitally important to the operation of the city,” Matteson said. They are jobs that require a very specific set of skills.”

Upgrading the designations for these three positions just puts on a little bit more firm footing” in attracting, hiring, and retaining the best candidates for these jobs, he said.

Matteson added that changing the role of human resources manager to key employee” is a particular urgent matter right now — because the current occupant of that position, Librandi, is about to retire.

Finance Committee meeting.

We really have seen over the last three to four years in particular a change in our ability to attract people to any position,” Librandi said. That’s not unique to New Haven, he said. It’s happening to everyone in the municipal sector. The market out there is different than it was. It certainly is impacting our ability to attract people.”

For certain higher-level positions of executive management, he said, individuals have a very broad range of responsibilities in department that are not overly staffed. … We’re doing everything we can to attract people who can come in and do the job to management the departments” in the way that they need to be managed. That has become increasingly difficult over my 12 years here.”

Librandi said that, when he started working for City Hall over a decade ago, there was only one job in the key employee” category. We’re now up to six.” And looking to add another three. That’s indicative of the fact that the market has moved beyond” the salary ranges currently available to people working in the upper ranks of City Hall.

He told the alders that making these requested changes to pensions and salaries for certain high-ranking managers would give the administrative the flexibility” it needs to attract the right people to those jobs.

In a letter sent to the alders on Aug. 30, Librandi offered more details in support of the proposed changes, particularly the requested salary range bump for his now-former position.

The departure of the HR Manager for the City will not be an easy position to fill as the salary for the position is already at its maximum level which ranks it 30th in the state in compensation amongst the same position in other cities and towns,” he wrote. This amendment will give the City a fighting chance in recruitment of a new Human Resources manager.”

“Only Applies To A Pretty Small Universe Of People”

Edgewood Alder Evette Hamilton and East Rock Alder Anna Festa.

So, just to be clear, Westville Alder and Finance Committee Chair Adam Marchand asked: The requested pension rule change allows the person in that particular position to have a bigger pension” and would no longer disadvantage internal City Hall employees who rise the ranks, while the key employee designation change would mean that the city can negotiate with prospective hires and offer more salary than what the labor grades normally limit to?”

That’s right, Matteson responded.

If we hire someone from the outside” who did not rise through a city union job to get to the role of budget director, chief of staff, or chief technology officer, East Rock Alder Anna Festa asked, would these higher pension benefit rules still apply?

If they’re doing a department head job or a coordinator job, they are covered and they get the 40 percent” pension…



Read More: Amid Vacancies, City Seeks Pay-Pension Bump

2022-09-19 12:15:00

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