Newell: Higher pay needed to attract finance director

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg City Council will vote at its next meeting on whether to change the pay grade for the finance director’s position so the city can move forward in finding someone to fill that position.

The city’s personnel and finance committees met Tuesday evening before the regular council meeting to discuss the position and what city officials want from it.

Both groups approved a proposal, requested by Mayor Bob Newell, to increase the base pay for the finance director to $55,000-$60,000 in order to attract qualified candidates for the position.

Director Angie Smith announced Oct. 12 she would step down to take another position in the city’s development department. Darcie Dyke has been named acting finance director.

Newell said there have been inquiries about the position, but no one is now being considered for the position. The mayor wanted the ability to negotiate a salary with candidates and wanted to secure an amount he could work with.

Cities of similar size to Parkersburg, and some smaller, are paying around that amount or more for a finance director’s position, Newell said. Many of those cities are also funding a city manager’s position in addition to a mayor’s position.

”In many places a finance director shares many of the responsibilities that a city manager does in those cities,” he said.

The city is always competing with other agencies and businesses to bring in qualified people to do the work, Newell said.

Council members asked the mayor where the money would come from to cover this increase in salary.

Newell said he plans to eliminate the position of assistant finance director, which has been vaccant for a while.

”Eliminating that position takes care of any financial responsibilities,” he said. ”In the past, that position has never really served as a true assistant finance director’s position.

”Basically, they were given that title, the extra money and other duties, but it was never really an assistant to the finance director.”

Because the finance director is an appointment of the mayor, through the city charter, the assistant finance director does not automatically fill in if the director is not able.

”It is just not necessary to have that position,” Newell said. ”We will not have to go and get that money anywhere else for (the finance director’s position).

”This move will actually save us money.”

The requirements for the finance director’s position include having five years of experience and someone who is a CPA or has a master’s degree in accounting or finance.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch, who chairs the personnel committee, said in looking at the salary structure of other cities and what other cities are paying, the amount being requested by the mayor is reasonable.

”I don’t think the $55,000-$60,000 range is out of line at all,” she said. ”If you are going to get someone (with the qualifications they are looking for) you are going to have to pay for it.

”This position may only be here for three years (the remainder of Newell’s term) and you cannot take someone out of college and put into this role. It has to be someone with management and financial experience. It is not a training ground. We need someone who has already been trained.”

In other business:

* Eric Bennett, manager of the Parkersburg Utility Board, gave a presentation to the finance committee about a proposal to increase sewer rates from $14.35 to $18.63 in annual increments over the next four years to help fund improvements and service. The finance committee decided to take time to review the proposal and will discuss it further at its next meeting. Councilman John Kelly voiced opposition to it as a strain on a lot of people who are still being impacted by the downturn in the economy.

* City council approved a resolution establishing new meeting dates for November and December to be held on Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

* Council approved a resolution appointing Jeremy Bungard to the Board of Zoning Appeals for an unexpired term to end Jan. 1, 2016.

* Council approved a resolution, 6-1, abandoning the right of way and easement in a 15-foot alley, lying east of Hemlock, west of Emerson and south of 32nd Street near North Parkersburg Baptist Church. Councilwoman Nancy Wilcox voted no on the resolution. Council members Kim Coram and James Reed were absent from Tuesday’s meetings, but Reed participated in the committee meetings by phone.