When you are negotiating employment with a new city there are at least three different areas that
should be discussed and mutually agreed upon:
Written Contract. A written contract for local government chief executives is not quite the
"rule" but is becoming less of an "exception". Some councils seem hesitant to use written
employment agreements and often resort to "letters of understanding" which may do little more
than commit the governing body to a month's severance pay. Contracts should be designed to
benefit both the City and the manager by clearly outlining the terms, benefits and expectations of
employment. You can be assured that the City attorney will be examining the employment
agreement on the city's behalf and to protect yourself you should consider having your own
attorney look at any documents before you sign them.
Contracts eliminate confusion and keep difficult situations more manageable when separation appears necessary or likely. Sample contract language and more extensive tips for drawing up a contract can be found in Section 1--Sample Contract Language in this publication.
Salary. There are two principal reasons why you should settle for a salary which is less then you
are currently receiving:
1) Your fringe benefits will compensate for a lesser salary
2) You have personal reasons such as the desire for a better quality of life, to be close to family,
or to locate near a particular educational institution.
Negotiate salary before signing a contract with a city. Unlike private sector employees, public
sector employees rarely have the opportunity to bargain strongly for salary increases because of
performance after an initial contract is signed. There will always be public pressure on the council
to keep a lid on salary increases. Frequently, the manager will earn more money than
councilmembers individually, which makes it more difficult for the council member to pay an
executive salary to someone who makes so much more than the council member. This concern is
compounded when the council member's city salary or stipend is nominal or non-compensated. In
addition, a good salary now will aid in salary negotiations in your next position. Almost every
employer looks at the candidates's current salary and few expect him or her to come to work for
them at less money than he or she currently makes. Consequently, one cannot emphasize the
necessity of negotiating a good salary prior to formally accepting and starting the job.
Negotiate salary after you've received a job offer. When you have actually been offered the
job you are in a better bargaining position because they have decided that they want you. It will
be hard for them to walk away from you once they have decided that you are their first choice. In
some cases, they may have already made a public announcement or notified other candidates of a
selection. In many cases the manager's position will have been empty for awhile and the council
will be tired of trying to cope with staff problems and would probably like to avoid extending the
recruitment process any further. If the council inquires about salary requirements before offering
the job, let them know that you must consider all aspects of the job before outlining salary needs.
You may accept a position in principle, but let it be clear that an acceptable total compensation
package is requisite to formal acceptance.
Give yourself a few days to consider a job offer. Always consider a job offer, or salary
proposal for a day or two. This will send a message to the council that you are a professional
who is selective about his/her employment. It also gives you a chance to reevaluate whether you
really want the job (and maybe to formulate a counter offer) and if your family really wants to
move to a new location. Hopefully, you will have already done your homework about the
community and organization. If you haven't, you better hurry and find out what you will be
walking into, before you say yes.
Fringe Benefit Considerations.
Bargain for as many fringe benefits as possible before being hired. Fringe benefits are an
important consideration in any Local government manager's total compensation package. They
often represent 25-45% of a manager's salary. Sometimes, situations like your closeness to being
vested in a retirement program in your current job may outweigh a salary increase provided by the
job you are considering. Fringe benefits not only provide you with additional security, but they
also serve to offset expenditures that would otherwise come out of your disposable income.
Sometimes fringe benefits are better than the equivalent salary increase because the fringe benefits
may frequently be treated as non-taxable income, and often more politically negotiable.
In addition, governing bodies may not be amenable to salary increases because of political
considerations but might be willing to make it up in an increase in fringe benefits.
There are several different categories of fringe benefits often available to local government
These fringe benefits should be included in any written employment agreement that is mutually
As mentioned earlier, there are several issues to consider when you are looking at salary needs.
Sometimes a raise in salary can actually result in less disposable income because of differences in
cost of living and benefits a total compensation package. One way to determine whether you
should accept an offer would be to conduct a simple cost-benefit analysis. Shown below is a
worksheet that you can printout and use to compare the position that you know have with the one
you are considering.
Salary, Benefit and Cost-of-Living Comparison
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