Charleston to propose $15 minimum wage for all city employees

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2022 at 7:43 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston will consider implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all city employees that will not require a tax increase.

The idea was proposed during Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s Human Resources Committee. If approved, it would apply to all city employees, from those who work in city hall to the people who pick up trash as well as first responders.

“Everyone wants to have their trash picked up on time. Everyone wants to be able to have good service from our sworn employees, good service from the guy who picks up your trash, the guy that cleans your ditch,” City Councilman Kevin Shealy said.

The city said revenues for this fiscal year, which runs from January to December, have been stronger than expected, and because of the salary savings from open positions, the city can afford to raise the minimum wage without raising taxes.

The increase in pay would affect a total of 482 city employees.

Charleston Compensation and Human Resources Data Manager Ryan Landry said there are currently around 280 full-time vacancies in the City of Charleston. That’s a staffing level of 75%.

Charleston Police currently have a 91% staffing level for sworn employees, with 39 full-time vacancies. The Charleston Fire Department has a 92% staffing level for sworn employees, with 28 full-time vacancies.

The total citywide staffing level is 83%, and Landry said they usually have staffing levels at around 88%.

“We need to be able to pay our people, so they can live here,” Shealy said. “This is a high cost of living area in Charleston, and we need to be able to pay them a fair wage, so they can live where they work.”

The city said the proposal will be discussed at the Ways and Means Committee on Aug. 16 and could go to the full council shortly thereafter.

“It’s not a crazy high increase,” resident Carter Borry said. “I can’t think of a better thing to do than put money back in citizens’ pockets, especially if they’re working. We could all use a pay raise with inflation and cost of living going through the roof.”

“We need to get that minimum wage up to a reasonable level, the $15 an hour,” resident Timmy Gaston said. “I’m happy to hear they’ve got the income to do that.”

The increase would take effect immediately after it is approved rather than at the end of the city’s fiscal year, officials said.

Shealy said more discussions about city employee pay could be coming soon.

“Hopefully, this is just the first step in retaining those employees that are so important to us, that are so good at what they do,” he said.

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