Southeast Texas is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and that population is slowly making its way to Huntsville. It has a stable economic base and has seen consistent growth in sales tax and property tax revenues.
And the salaries of top city management reflects the potential future growth.
According to a recent public information request, expenses for city management and directors has increased by 14.29% since 2019. Over that range the city has also hired multiple management positions, including new assistant city manager Rick Rudometkin, who is compensated at a base salary of $150,000 per year.
New city secretary Kristy Doll, who is scheduled to start June 1, will receive $26,000 more than her predecessor at a salary of $85,000. Doll comes to Huntsville from Rifle, Colorado, where she served as the city clerk for a town of 9,650.
City Manager Aron Kulhavy assumed his position in 2018 as an interim with a $138,517 salary. He is currently compensated $160,000 per year, plus benefits — the national average for city manager’s In non-urban areas is $106,511, while the average for cities of more than 1,000,000 residents is $217,893, according to the International City/County Management Association.
At the same time, some in city management saw their salaries increase by as much as 30% from 2019, with 10 non-charter officers currently making over $100,000 per year in their base salary.
Much of the pay spikes come from a 2018 compensation study, which was completed by an outside consultant. Recommendations, for the most part, were implemented in 2019. However, certain positions in the police department, and a few others throughout the city, were implemented over a two-year period.
“There are a variety of reasons for spikes over time. Some positions have been reclassified, titles changed, and/or have taken on additional duties, some have been changed due to internal equity issues,” Kulhavy said. “The HR Department does a compensation survey on an annual basis, so some are changed based on this, and from time to time, individual positions are looked at due to recruiting/retention issues.”
Kulhavy noted that the city compares itself to Bryan/College Station, Conroe and the Houston metro area to recruit for all positions. For the senior management positions, he said that the city recruits nationally, as evidenced by our two most recent hires from Colorado and Washington.
“It's somewhat complex in that certain positions will be recruited on a more local level, but the management level positions tend to need to have a wider net cast,” the city manager added.
According to the 2020-21 Huntsville city budget, salaries and benefits account for nearly a third of the city’s annual budget. However, budget expenditures have increased approximately $6.6 million since 2019, currently at $75.1 million.
Meanwhile, certain city offices remained understaffed, including the Huntsville Fire Department which as a combination fire department continues to rely on a large collection of volunteers.
For the past two years, the city has attempted to acquire up to four additional firefighters through grant programs, but those grant applications have failed. Instead the city opted to hire a single additional firefighter, bringing its current total full-time firefighters to 14 — nearly 40 short of standards set by the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA recommends the department employ four staff members on each fire apparatus.
Kulhavy is expected to present his preliminary budget for 2021-22 in July. The city’s new fiscal year will begin October 1.