Four new city positions were created last week but a council hesitated to fill one of them until members can review next year's budget.
All four positions are needed, said Acting City Manager Art deWerk, to meet increased demand for service.
Three of the four positions are not funded by the general fund. Those salaries will be paid by enterprise accounts. They are a Senior Civil Engineer, Water Resources Analyst and Customer Service Technician. For example, the Senior Civil Engineer position will be funded half by water service fees and half paid for sewer service. The other two positions are paid for by the water fund account.
However, it was the position of Human Resource Analyst that generated the most discussion at the Oct. 28 Ceres City Council meeting. The analyst would be created by changing one of three HR positions - that of HR assistant - which had been filled by Syndi McLelland, who retired earlier this year.
DeWerk said the city's HR department has seen considerable turnover which has caused some "instability and loss of organizational structure." Changes in law, such as the Firefighter Bill of Rights, Obamacare and the Occupational Safety & Health Act, have increased responsibilities of the city's HR department. DeWerk said that in an effort to provide better performance without significant impact to the budget, the city wants to turn the assistant position to that of an analyst who would have a higher skill set to deal with changing law.
Vice Mayor Ken Lane said he has no problem with the new position this year but said he would not be comfortable making the position permanent in the 2014-15 fiscal year "because we really don't know what the numbers are" to "make sure we can afford it."
The analyst would make a higher salary than the old assistant position, said Betina McCoy, Director of Human Resources. The change would have about a $9,000 impact on the general fund in the next budget year.
"I for one have sat here at this dais and I've said ‘When things improve I don't want to see us become a bigger city.' I'd like to see some of this go back ... to our employees."
Employees of the city have agreed to accept a 10 percent salary reduction in the last three years ago to help the city balance its budget.
City Councilman Mike Kline agreed with Lane.
"For over the last three years we've asked our employees to take a 10 percent reduction in pay and yet we're reclassifying, giving a raise in this instance, and what message are we sending out there?" said Kline.
Kline added that the city must convey to workers that the other three positions are not funded by the general fund.
City Attorney Mike Lyions said the council could approve the position but still have control over whether the position is funded at budget time. The council approved the four job titles and descriptions in a 5-0 vote.
McLelland's HR assistant position has been filled through a temporary agency.
The Senior Civil Engineer will assist City Engineer Toby Wells prepare to meet the city's capital improvement program, provide engineering services, review subdivision maps, and help oversee work done by contractors.
The Water Resources Analyst will perform technical research and analysis of water operations and quality, conduct studies of water supply and quality, administer water conservation programs in Ceres, and oversee the water meter operation.
The Customer Service Technician will work with the city Finance Department to assist ion delinquent accounts, including shutting off water service for non-payment of bills, input data and generate reports, assistant customers to explain procedures, handle cases of high water consumption and other tasks.