A report of salaries paid to top-level employees of Oklahoma municipalities in 2012 showed Durant city leaders were slightly above the average pay scale for employees in cities of a similar size.
Durant was included in a list of more than 50 cities in Oklahoma with “one or more bargaining units or greater than 10,000 population” for the purposes of a research report released last March and conducted by Oklahoma Municipal League and the Mayors Council of Oklahoma.
This list included the state’s largest cities of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as small towns such as Crescent (population 1,411) and Nicoma Park (2,393). Those cities have more than one “bargaining unit,” or a group representing a segment of city employees.
Durant’s population of 15,856 qualified it for the list. Data collected by OML for the report was provided by the cities in late 2012.
For comparison purposes, the Durant Daily Democrat further culled the list to 10 cities, with those closest to Durant in population included in the list. That left Altus (19,813), Claremore (18,581), McAlester (18,383), Ada (16,810), Chickasha (16,036), Miami (13,570), Okmulgee (12,321), Woodward (11,853) and Elk City (11,693).
The Democrat compared the listed salaries of 10 top-level positions: City manager, assistant city manager, police chief, fire chief, library director, municipal clerk, parks director, water/waste water superintendent, planning/community developer and building inspector.
The report showed Durant to have the highest sales tax rate (4.375 percent) among the 10 similar-sized cities. City Manager Jim Dunegan said those tax revenues are divided among the city (3 percent) and several other entities such as Durant Industrial Authority.
Only 2 percent may be used for operational expenses, such as salaries, with the remaining 1 percent allotted for capital improvement. Durant has an annual payroll of around $10 million for its 215 employees.
Here’s how Durant ranks in a comparison of top-level salaries with Oklahoma cities of a similar size:
City Manager: First out of 10 at $145,440, just over $20,000 higher than the second-highest paid in this category at Chickasha. The lowest paid among the 10 was Okmulgee at $72,000 - right at half of that paid in Durant.
Dunegan said that number reflects his salary combined with a monthly expense account of $1,300 which is in lieu of benefits. Dunegan said he receives no benefits package such as medical insurance or a car provided by the city.
Assistant City Manager: First out of three similar-sized cities with ACMs; Durant pays $84,500, followed closely by Woodward at $84,270 and Miami at $65,520. The other seven did not list an ACM salary, but many cities have a “Public Works Director” while Durant does not have this position.
Police Chief: First at $85,716. Miami is next at $78,000; the lowest is Okmulgee at $58,392.
Fire Chief: Third at $72,683 behind Altus ($85,072) and McAlester ($75,114).
Library Director: Second at $60,703 behind Chickasha ($61,464). The lowest is Okmulgee at $38,502.
Municipal Clerk: First out of eight at $70,000; the range from there is $45,646 to $59,440. Chickasha and Miami did not report clerk salaries.
Parks Director: Second at $69,665 behind McAlester ($71,151). The lowest is Elk City at $43,259.
Water/Wastewater Superintendent: Fourth out of nine at $54,416; the range is $34,047 (Okmulgee) to $57,200 (Miami).
Planning/Community Developer: Fourth out of six at $62,240. The range is from $49,039 (Okmulgee) to $71,511 (Chickasha).
Building Inspector: Seventh out of nine at $37,623. Ada pays their inspector the most at $46,962; Woodward is lowest at $32,946.
“It’s been my goal that you need to reward your employees well. This way you keep the quality,” Dunegan said. “I believe in rewarding for the value a person brings. I can’t say enough about our workers. They are hard-working and deserve every bit of the paycheck they take home.”
Part of the reason that the city has chosen to pay its leaders slightly more than average is the fact that Durant is one of the fastest growing cities in Oklahoma, Dunegan said.
“I prefer to be a little bit of a leader in that area,” he said. “Our department heads recognize that.”
Dunegan said some of the keys to the city’s recent growth was the work of long-time former city manager Paul Buntz as well as Tommy Kramer, the current executive director of Durant Industrial Authority.
Kramer’s salary of $135,660 per year was not listed in the OML report because it is a position not hired by the council directly. The report does not list economic developer salaries for any cities, even though many cities have the position.
Dunegan also points out that Durant has no public works director. Indeed most of the cities have a position for public works with a pay range between $59,928 (Ada) and $93,787 (Altus).
“That’s why we have two city managers, and many employees here play dual roles,” Dunegan said.
He said a 3 percent pay raise was approved in December for city employees, but it was up to the various department heads to issue those raises based on a merit and evaluation system.
Further down the chain, a glance at beginning salaries for selected city jobs showed Durant to be in the middle of the pack in pay rates.
Sewer workers here earn $26,337, or fourth out of seven similar-sized cities. Mechanics ($32,702) are also fourth out of eight.
Refuse collectors, custodians and secretaries in Durant fall to seventh out of eight comparable cities with an average annual pay of $24,273.