Back to the Sep-Oct 2019 issue

How Does Your City Use the LMC Salary & Benefits Survey?

City Clerk
Chatfield (Population 2,858)

The City of Chatfield uses the League’s Salary & Benefits Survey for Minnesota Local Governments on a routine basis and has found the data extremely helpful. I encourage all cities to participate in this survey, as the more data included, the more useful it is to all of us.

We use the survey data primarily to see how our city’s pay schedule compares to similar cities within the marketplace. This can be helpful when negotiating contracts and for monitoring changes in the market.

Sorting the data

We typically sort cities by population and region. We look for non-metro cities that have populations between 2,000 and 5,000 people.

When analyzing police officer pay, we further sort cities by the size of the police department, looking for departments with three to seven full-time officers. Once the sorting is completed, a simple spreadsheet is all that is needed to allow us to display the data in various ways.

Seeing where we stand

Our focus is on both the minimum and maximum pay that is offered by each city. We develop a spreadsheet that displays the minimum pay of each city in ascending order, with our city highlighted, so it is a quick and easy way to see how we stand relative to the other cities.

That same spreadsheet calculates minimum and maximum pay of all the cities, so we can easily see how we compare. The result is a quick display of how we measure up to the mean pay of all the cities.

After completing this analysis for a few years, a trend will develop that will indicate whether the city is maintaining its position in the marketplace or if it is necessary to change the method by which annual pay grid adjustments are deter-mined in the future.

Benefits of the data

There are two main benefits we get from using the survey data. One is that we avoid the surprises and costs that can occur if the city’s pay scale is out of sync with the market.

The second benefit is that it helps build trust among everyone involved. The employees and union representatives can trust that the city takes an objective look at compensation. And the City Council can trust the information provided by staff, which allows them to confidently make decisions about pay.

Assistant City Manager
Coon Rapids (Population 63,272)

In Coon Rapids, we have found the League’s Salary & Benefits Survey for Minnesota Local Governments to be a great tool to help ensure our compensation remains competitive. It also provides guidance with other staffing elements, such as reporting structure, trends in job titles, and deciding whether positions should be full-time or part-time.

Comparing to similar cities

When we create a new position, we start by assigning a pay grade based on the position requirements and then look at survey data to see if the grade assigned has similar pay to that in our peer cities. We are careful to look at cities of similar size to Coon Rapids if a position has a particularly large salary range or if the position requirements vary widely.

We also use the salary survey to look at potential rate adjustments if there are changes in the supply or demand for a position, or if employees feel their compensation is no longer in line with the market.

Comparing to private sector

In addition to comparing Coon Rapids to other cities, we look at private-sector salaries. While these salaries are outside the League’s salary survey, this data helps us get a better idea of what we’re competing with when we are recruiting talent.

Since unemployment is low right now, we know we’re either trying to attract talent away from the private sector or to keep talent in the public sector. We can’t do either if our salaries aren’t competitive.

Making salary decisions based on current data helps us to compete for talent while balancing fiscal stewardship.

Factors beyond salary

This analysis provides a good reminder that salary is not the only factor that potential employees consider. We also have to be competitive with other offerings, including benefits, employee culture, and professional development opportunities, as well as maintain pay equity compliance. Cities can’t always pay top dollar, but salary is just a part of the picture.

Using the survey data shows us where we fall on the spectrum, which allows us to find that balance of recruiting and retaining great employees while being mindful of taxpayer dollars. We want our residents to get the best employees at the best price, and the Salary & Benefits Survey data helps us do that.

Learn more about the League’s Salary & Benefits Survey at