Granite Shoals Mayor Aaron Garcia formed a special committee on Dec. 14 to find solutions to the city’s chronic understaffing problem. He handpicked seven members for the committee, including himself. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
The Granite Shoals mayor has formed a committee to solve the city’s problem of chronic understaffing. The move came during the City Council’s meeting Dec. 14.
The committee is tasked with finding ways to attract and retain city employees with a focus on the Streets and Parks Department, which has the highest turnover.
The city currently has 40 out of 47 budgeted positions filled. Four of the empty spots are in Streets and Parks. The turnover rate in that department is attributed to high insurance costs and non-competitive pay with neighboring cities and counties.
On the committee are newly appointed councilors Kevin Flack and Michael Berg, Mayor Aaron Garcia, Streets and Parks Department Superintendent Ronald “Shorty” Corley, Fire Chief Tim Campbell, City Attorney Joshua Katz, and newly hired City Secretary Dawn Wright. All members were handpicked by Garcia.
To stay in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, only three council members can be on the committee. Flack and Berg were chosen for their professional experience in finance and business.
The council confronted understaffing problems during a Nov. 16 meeting, during which the pay for Streets and Parks workers was compared to their monthly insurance costs. According to Corley, each of his staff makes between $17 and $20 per hour, depending on experience. Health insurance is roughly $1,200 a month to cover themselves, a spouse, and children under the city’s current benefits package. Corley said neighboring cities and counties often pay up $25 an hour or more, leading to quality staff leaving for higher-paying jobs.
“We have a hard time competing with other cities and counties around here,” Mayor Pro-Tem Ron Munos said. “A lot of it is because our insurance costs are prohibitive for families.”
He recommended looking for a new insurance provider. The city gets its insurance through the Texas Municipal League.
“I think it is our best interest to look outside of TML at this point,” Councilor Samantha Ortis said.
Councilor Phil Ort countered that the city could lose its current longtime member rate with TML but eventually came around to seeking other options.
“I say we throw the dice and take our chances with it. I’m game for it,” he said. “This is not something new. I’ve been going to these meetings for seven years, and every year, it’s the same thing. From what I’ve seen in the seven years, I don’t think TML is that great.”
Interim City Manager Peggy Smith said the city had not seriously looked at switching insurance providers in at least three years and hoped a better option could be found.
“Employees are our biggest expense and our biggest asset,” she told DailyTrib.com. “We have got to take care of them.”