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Thread: Fair compensation - would you stay?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Fair compensation - would you stay?

    Hey folks.


    Here's the scenario. I just had the chance to review my municipality's 2008 budget for the first time. I'm working as one of two planners here, though the other planner is technically on maternity leave (I'm in touch with her via email or phone on a very regular basis, however). Upon reviewing the budget, I'm troubled. No - troubled is the wrong word. I'm feeling like a bit of a chump. See, I was hired at a salary of $45k/year. I live in one of the most expensive counties in the entire US, and I'm find that this salary is eaten up real quick every month.

    The budget makes it clear that I'm being compensated poorly. I make 1/2 of the salary of my fellow planner and 1/3 the salary of the manager of the municipality. A number of the DPW, building department, and admin staff make quite a bit more than me also. This is a union position with generous benefits (though just one week of vacation the first year, increasing to two the second year). I understand that I shouldn't expect to be raking the dough in as an Assistant Planner, but my issue is with the relative compensation. This is my first municipal planning position. I have a master's degree in regional economic development and worked at a nonprofit previously doing housing development. Am I being taken for a fool here, or am I overreacting? I did check the salary prior accepting the position and it is in line with those offered for new planners at NYC Dept. of City Planning.

    I had planned on staying here a couple of years, but I'm not so sure now. Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    How long have you been there?

    Seniority can add up fast, and if Mat Leave has been there several years, she might be a good negotiator or have gotten several raises. Manager: no surprise. Other factors include age (are these folks much older than you?) and intermediate merit pay increases.

    FWIW, your $45k is just above the local Planner I starting range. (I sure hope I get the chance to verify that very soon.)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Veloise, thanks so much for your reply.

    I've been there only three months. My plan had been to stay two to three years and then move on, but this has me thinking that it may be better to stay one year and then begin looking. The cost of living is just brutal here. I'm 26 years old and there is no one else on staff here that is also in their twenties. I'm the youngest by at least 5-7 years.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Hey folks.


    See, I was hired at a salary of $45k/year. I live in one of the most expensive counties in the entire US, and I'm find that this salary is eaten up real quick every month.

    The budget makes it clear that I'm being compensated poorly. I make 1/2 of the salary of my fellow planner and 1/3 the salary of the manager of the municipality. A number of the DPW, building department, and admin staff make quite a bit more than me also. This is a union position with generous benefits (though just one week of vacation the first year, increasing to two the second year). I understand that I shouldn't expect to be raking the dough in as an Assistant Planner, but my issue is with the relative compensation. This is my first municipal planning position. I have a master's degree in regional economic development and worked at a nonprofit previously doing housing development. Am I being taken for a fool here, or am I overreacting? I did check the salary prior accepting the position and it is in line with those offered for new planners at NYC Dept. of City Planning.

    I had planned on staying here a couple of years, but I'm not so sure now. Thoughts?
    Dude, $45K/year is pretty damn good for your first planning job anywhere in the world. Count your blessings, stay a couple of years while making sure you do A+++ work and move on when its time. Who knows, you might end up staying there for awhile or being promoted due to others leaving. If I see someone that has had jobs for less than two years, I would hesitate to hire them.
    ...my lifestyle determines my death style!
    - Metallica

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    A union position? As a pro planner? Damn the NE part of this country sucks. Yes, I think you are underpaid. As a union member you have little recourse other than to go through the union.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    $45,000 is not a bad salary for a first job. Is it really any different from the $20's you might expect to make living in a rural community with a low cost of living? As it is a union position I would expect seniority to make a big difference in pay, and I would also expect that there is a compensation schedule that the community is required to follow.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    You have only been there 3 months. Unions typically give raises and other compensation once a year, usually around the annual review. As someone said earlier, you really need to put forth >100% every day at your job, and sometimes it might take several years before that is noticed.

    I've worked at my current job as a private sector planner for 2 1/2 years with a few years of related planning internships. My portfolio is great but compensation sucks, which is why I am looking for a different job.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    You have only been there 3 months. Unions typically give raises and other compensation once a year, usually around the annual review. As someone said earlier, you really need to put forth >100% every day at your job, and sometimes it might take several years before that is noticed.

    I've worked at my current job as a private sector planner for 2 1/2 years with a few years of related planning internships. My portfolio is great but compensation sucks, which is why I am looking for a different job.
    Correct, my workload is far too heavy to even think about putting in less than 100% on a given day. I did move out of state for this job, so I've begun to think about how long of a stay I want to make it. My concern was with the salary differential among the employees at the municipality, namely the fact that mine is so.... low, in comparison to so many with jobs that demand less of them than mine does.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Most of them have probably been at their jobs longer than you (and received union raises/compensation each year). Do you have pay grades? Some municipalities, union or non-union, may assign pay grades across the board, regardless of the job or responsibilties. For example, an entry-level planner and an entry-level HR person may be assigned a P1 paygrade. A mid-level planner and a foreman may be assigned a P4 paygrade, etc. Bottom line, you might be earning the same as another worker, even though you might perceive your work to be more demanding than theirs.

    Good union jobs offer good pay and benefits, and will provide good compensation for their members. Because it is harder to be canned, some, but not all, workers can get away with not working as hard. I was preparing court exhibits for a trial last month and had to make several trips to the county for aerial photos and tax maps. The union workers were very friendly,knowledgeable and were a tremendous help. But they also loved to chat on their cell phones, gossip, and stampede out the door with the 4:30 whistle (whereas I had to go back to my office and put in another 5-6 hours of work on the exhibits). Yeah it sucks, but they are union employees, and I work for a private firm.

    Talk to your union representative about raises and compensation. However, I still think it's far too early to be comparing your compensation with other workers.

    Hope this helps-

  10. #10
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post

    Good union jobs offer good pay and benefits, and will provide good compensation for their members. Because it is harder to be canned, some, but not all, workers can get away with not working as hard. I was preparing court exhibits for a trial last month and had to make several trips to the county for aerial photos and tax maps. The union workers were very friendly,knowledgeable and were a tremendous help. But they also loved to chat on their cell phones, gossip, and stampede out the door with the 4:30 whistle (whereas I had to go back to my office and put in another 5-6 hours of work on the exhibits). Yeah it sucks, but they are union employees, and I work for a private firm.


    This is something I'm seeing on a daily basis. I had always heard about the ways in which unions can breed mediocrity and an "I really don't give a sh!t, you can't fire me" attitude, but had never seen it face to face until now. I've come in on days off and I've worked late because it's what is necessary given the workload. I totally enjoy the work so I'm not at all unhappy with this. That said, the overall attitude of some of the municipal staff is lackadaisical and cynical at times. Maybe I had this naive vision of public employees whistling to work every day and taking pleasure in providing public service, but the reality that I'm seeing is just mediocrity and "just enough to get by". This is some of the source of my frustration.

    Many thanks for your advice, by the way.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    There are plenty of municipalities that work beyond the 9 to 5 schedule, and that doesn't include evening meetings. I worked in the public sector with a couple of guys who could only a take a couple years of working with underperformers (they left on good terms and have built their own firms).

    Keep doing what you are doing. If you are still restless with your co-workers (and I would be, too) maybe you should find a job where other people share your work ethic. Just don't burn any bridges along the way.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Only 3 months... I'm guessing you are still on probation, and in that case you should ignore this perceived injustice and keep your mouth shut. But, if you feel you are still being paid unfairly after being there for a year or so, your only option as a union member (at most places) is to file a job audit. From my experience, mostly management laughs at job audits, and never consider approving them. The first step would be to make sure your supervisor is on your side. But like I said, wait a little while before rocking the boat.

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