Public employees in Wrangell are paid less than their counterparts in the region. That’s according to a consultant hired by the city.

Results from the study show that Wrangell pays slightly less than the market average, at a 43rd percentile. The consultant recommends the city raise wage scales to meet the 50th percentile, if the city wants to be competitive in the job market.

And clearly, the city does want to be competitive, since it spent $15,000 on the study, says city manager Lisa Von Bargen.

“There hasn’t been a compensation study done in nearly a decade with the borough, and we’ve had challenges recruiting new employees to come to Wrangell to fill vacant positions,” Von Bargen says.

It took a year and a half to hire a new finance director for the city. And the city bumped the police chief wage scale by $20,000 when it went looking for a replacement.

“And we are about ready to go into a collective bargaining agreement with the union and having information on where we are salary wise in the market is extremely important,” Von Bargen says.

Negotiations between the city and local IBEW union begin in June. The union fronted $5,000 for the study as well.

“What the union is going to do with that information is still in the process, just like what the city is going to do,” says Mark Armstrong, a local union shop steward.

The report was prepared by Seattle-based firm JB Rewards. The consultants assessed how wages for city staff in Wrangell compared to Alaska municipalities of similar size.

The city will consider any wage adjustments during its upcoming budgeting sessions. The budget should be finalized by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.