Commissioners approve salary increase for city manager

David Floyd • May 17, 2019 at 1:04 AM

Johnson City commissioners approved an increase to City Manager Pete Peterson’s base salary Thursday night, bringing it to $160,761.

It’s a pay raise that Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said is overdue.

“For the last three years we’ve been working very hard in the city because we’ve kind of gotten behind in some pay scales,” Brock said. “So we’ve been doing a series of market adjustments for employees. The employee we haven’t done that to is Mr. Peterson, our own city manager.”

Commissioners also approved a $7,576 increase in Peterson’s deferred compensation, bringing it to $16,076, and a $2,400 increase in his annual car allowance, bringing it to $8,400. The changes would go into effect starting July 6 and were approved on the consent agenda.

The pay bump takes into account a 4% across-the-board pay increase for all city employees, which the city is implementing because of recent difficulties recruiting and retaining employees. “Part of that is our salaries aren’t competitive, so we’re trying to get our whole salary structure raised up so we’re in line with other people,” Peterson said.

According to a spreadsheet included in the commission’s agenda packet, Peterson’s base salary was $113,600 when he was named city manager in December 2005. His salary has increased between 1-4% every year since then except in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Peterson’s salary bump in July 2019 would mark a 7% increase over his base pay in July 2018, which was $149,351.

“In the 10, 12 cities that we surveyed, we’re one of the higher populations yet he ranked down at kind of the bottom of the scale,” Brock said, “so we’re moving it up to get him much more competitive.”

Starting July 6, Peterson’s total annual compensation, taking into account his base salary, deferred compensation and car allowance, will be $185,237. According to the spreadsheet, this is just shy of the $187,631 earned by city manager of Franklin, which has a population of 78,321, and a little more than the $184,278 earned by the city manager of Morristown, which has a population of 29,771.

The current total compensation for the city manager position is $163,851, which is less than the total compensation for Kingsport’s city manager, $175,811, and higher than the total compensation for Bristol’s city manager, $156,795. Johnson City has more than twice the population of Bristol and has roughly 14,000 more people than Kingsport.

While population has a lot to do with judging fair market compensation, Brock said it’s also important to take into account the size of a city’s budget, the number of city employees and the presence of a school system.

“He has a big huge job, and we were letting him get behind,” Brock said. “So we had to fix that.”

Tannery Knobs reimbursements

Commissioners also voted to reimburse R&G Partners $540,241 for the cost of constructing and designing the Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park.

The reimbursements are part of a conveyance agreement signed by the city and R&G Partners in November 2018, which commits the city to reimburse the company in exchange for the title of the property. The land will be donated free of charge to the city.

Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said this is nearly $200,000 less than the maximum reimbursement cap of $732,000 in the city’s agreement with R&G Partners.

This brings the long-awaited park that much closer to opening its gates. Brock said the final step of the process will be closing on the property. Peterson said the city is working to get that set up next week.

“I think this is a tremendous example of a public-private partnership that’s really going to be something jump starts an already active environment around biking,” said commissioner Larry Calhoun.

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