Fayetteville City Hall. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

Some seasonal workers for the city of Fayetteville may get a pay increase to at least $15 an hour as part of next year’s city budget.

On Thursday, the City Council discussed the possible new $15 hourly minimum for summer seasonal workers, including lifeguards and recreation assistants.

Lifeguards would maintain a higher rate, as they did previously, as those positions require more training and responsibility.

“If you look at that proposed hourly rate, we’re maintaining the same distance that they had previously from their current rates,” Kelly Olivera, Fayetteville’s budget and evaluation director, said at Thursday’s meeting. “So, some positions, the lifeguard, maintained a higher level than just a field supervisor.” 

Field supervisors would earn the new minimum of $15 an hour while lifeguards would make an hourly wage of $16.75. Lead lifeguards would make even more — $18.75 an hour.

In total, the new $15 minimum, if approved by the council, would cost taxpayers nearly $484,000 in next year’s budget.

Council member Yvonne Kinston said she was concerned about younger seasonal employees getting a $15 minimum wage when other city workers have just recently gotten to that pay level.

“We have employees that are older,” Kinston said. “They just recently made $15 an hour. And we have 18-year-olds … that don’t have the same responsibilities. They’re really coming in … even though they’re temporary, making the same thing, and I have concerns with that.”

According to the proposed budget, 76 of the seasonal employees who would see a minimum wage increase would be 18 or younger, making up 27% of all the seasonal workers.

Of those, 41 would be lifeguards, but none would be lead lifeguards.

Mayor Mitch Colvin said the pay increase would be appropriate in his view, even for younger seasonal workers.

“Eighteen years old is considered an adult,” he said. “They can join the military, buy a firearm, so on and so forth.”

Kinston said she was more concerned with those younger than 18.

Among the 76 seasonal employees in that age bracket, Olivera said, four are 14 years old; 16 are 15; 25 are 16; 20 are 17; and 11 are 18.

Besides the 41 lifeguards, one is a recreation assistant, and the other 34 are timekeepers.

City Manager Doug Hewett reminded the City Council of its goal of increasing pay for employees. The city has already instituted a $15 hourly minimum for other employees.

“We had already made that change for regular full-time, part-time staff,” Hewett said. 

“As some of you have indicated, this puts compression pressures on some of those other staff members who before had differences, but understanding, as y’all said, supercritical business interest to council. This is what it looks like.” 

The council also would not want to create any concerns of age discrimination, Hewett said.

Council member Shakeyla Ingram, who supports the pay increase, said she sympathized with younger people making less money.

“I’ve been in situations, as a young person in the room, to be denied a certain pay grade because of age,” she said.

Council member Courtney Banks-McLaughlin said that while she understands the concerns about salary compression, the pay increase will make the city more competitive in terms of keeping workers.

“It’s a great opportunity for the people in our community — teenagers, adults. I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.

Continued budget deliberation

The council will hold another work session at 5 p.m. June 9 in City Hall to go over the proposed budget.

The City Council plans to vote on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. June 13 in City Hall following a public hearing where residents can voice any concerns they have with the city’s financial plans over the next year.

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Ben Sessoms is a former Carolina Public Press reporter. To reach the Carolina Public Press newsroom, email news@carolinapublicpress.org.

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