Hattiesburg hires firm to assess employee wages

Hattiesburg hires firm to assess employee wages

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire a wage assessment consulting firm to evaluate city employee wages before a new federal overtime regulation takes effect.

The new requirement raises the threshold at which many salaried employees are exempt from overtime from $455 a week to $913.

"There is a huge change coming up effective December first of this year that's going to make the salary level more than double for exemption," said Van Craft, owner and consultant of Craft Entities, LLC, the company the city hired to assess its wages.

Councilperson Carter Carroll said the company should help Hattiesburg figure out how many employees could be impacted and if it makes more sense to just raise certain salaries instead of paying overtime.

"We need to look at those who particularly make a lot of overtime, and we may want to raise them over the $49,000 cap," Carroll said. "That would save us money throughout the year rather than paying them hourly overtime. You almost have to go position by position and see."

Carroll said he wants the assessment completed before the council passes a new city budget on October first.

"These rates take place December 1, but we set a our budget in October," he said. "So we need to have the money allocated in September."

Carroll said expediting the assessment is the major reason to hire a firm to work for the city rather than use a government agency that provides similar service for free. Carroll said the city is able to set a timeline for completion instead of working on another organization's schedule.

"We need it done right and in a hurry," he said.

The cost of hiring the company, a monthly retainer of $500 plus $250 per hour if work "exceeds two hours any month," raised concerns with Councilperson Mary Dryden on Monday, but cost wasn't discussed before all five council members voted to hire the firm Tuesday. Carroll said he wasn't sure what the final cost to use the company would be, but said this is the same company the city hired about a year ago to review firefighter salaries.