WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington is having trouble bringing in new employees to fill a variety of positions.
City Council learned more about this dilemma at their most recent agenda briefing. A special budget work session was held for the impending 2015 fiscal year Monday morning.
According to a presentation from Jeanne Sexton, the city's human resources director, employee compensation is the top priority of the city staff in budgeting.
Sexton said the city offers adequate benefits, but not high starting salaries, and he believes that's where the problem lies.
"You're talking entry level position, high school level graduate; they're not looking at long-term retirement," Sexton explained. "We as a city need to do a better job informing them that we are protecting you both now and for the future."
Multiple council members expressed anger that the city had focused on putting money into deferred compensation for savings, when most new hires are looking for a high salary to start off with.
"What we're hearing is that these folks need the money now as opposed to deferring that money down the road," said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
Sexton explained that good benefits can be enticing, but not as attractive as a higher starting salary. She said some jobs the city has made available have received no applicants.
"We as a city need to do a better job informing them that we are protecting you now and in the future, so they can see the benefit of having both of them," said Sexton.
At the work session, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous told council he was having trouble keeping some of his veteran employees. The chief explained that the pay structure is flawed and high-ranking officers don't make as much as they should.
Evangelous said his five to seven year veterans are leaving the department, while the police academy is consistently full of new recruits.
"We've got new hires making the same money as five year officers," Evangelous stated. "We've got some employees who get promoted who are jumping over incumbents that have been in that position for a number of years."
According to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Rawley, 24 officers left the department since January 2013. Five of those employees retired. The majority of the others left for better paying jobs.
Chief Evangelous said that some employees have even left to work for New Hanover County because the jobs pay better.
"We've lost them to Kure Beach and Brunswick County. We've lost a ton of officers over the past year. We've got to retain our folks. It makes no sense for us to continue to hire and then people (continue) leaving the organization."