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Ocean City Council members unanimously agreed to increase the minimum wage for municipal workers to $15 an hour beginning on the first of the year.

The State of Maryland is requiring municipalities to increase the minimum wage for part-time and seasonal employees working at the lowest paygrade level. As of this past summer, the rate for such positions was $11.75 per hour.

But after a tough season of looking for seasonal and part-time employees, due in part to the covid-19 pandemic, the city has decided to accelerate the raise.

The increase in wages across the board, according to Budget Manager Jennie Knapp, will be 2.3 percent to grade maximums, and the city will aggressively increase the minimum for all other pay grades in 2022 and 2023, before revisiting the topic in 2024.

The city has 30 pay grades, starting at 100 and going to 130. There is also a 56-percent spread between each pay grade to allow for growth with experience.

Knapp said the city currently employs approximately 800 part-time workers in the Grade 100 paygrade, and the cost to increase the wage to $15 per hour would amount to $567,600.

The city also employs 66 full-time, non-union employees, and the fiscal impact for the wage increase will amount to an additional $220,257, annually.

Knapp said the city does not contribute to the other post-employment benefit, or OPEB, plan for non-union employees, therefore, the cost could be covered without affecting the operating budget.

The pay increases also will include the police and fire departments.

During the summer, the city ran into problems finding bus drivers to help fulfill the resort’s transportation requirements.

Bus drivers are classified as Grade 107 employees and are currently paid $15.60 per hour. Over the summer, this amount was bumped to $17.75, which was more in line with the current market for bus drivers in the state.

Along with increasing the minimum wage and pay grades across the board, City Council members agreed to have a pay study conducted as part of the 2023 budget for $25,000 and conduct a market comparison in 2022 for $15,000.

“The town needs to take a proactive stance,” Mayor Rick Meehan said, explaining that last year the city ran into major problems hiring staff. “By bringing this forward now, we can use it with recruitment starting today.”

He added that he supported the recommendation from Knapp and Human Resource Director Katie Callan.

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca moved to approve the increase in wages and to fund the two studies, with a second by Councilman Mark Paddack. The measure passed with a 6-0 vote. Councilman Lloyd Martin was absent from the meeting.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on Dec. 3, 2021.

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