Greg Doyon, the Billings City Council’s unanimous selection to be the next city administrator, came down $5,000 on his salary and benefits demands Thursday, and he and a council subcommittee negotiating his contract agreed on a handful of former stumbling blocks, including vacation time.
But the subcommittee held firm on its previous salary offer of $155,000, the same amount the city paid former administrator Tina Volek, who retired in September after 13 years on the job.
Doyon had Thursday to consider the committee's latest offer, which will meet at 8 a.m. Friday in the conference room at City Hall ahead of the entire council’s consideration of Doyon’s employment agreement Monday evening.
With W.D. Higginbotham of the Mercer Group serving as intermediary, Doyon, the city manager of Great Falls, where he’s paid about $137,000 annually, counter-offered a salary request of $165,000. That sparked a spirited debate among subcommittee members, at least one of whom said he was concerned over how the negotiations are proceeding.
“He has come down, and there is nothing wrong with coming up,” said Councilman Shaun Brown. “$155,000 is a big wage, but this is a big job. We really aren’t giving much in any of this negotiation. We are going into it with a ‘take it or leave it, see you later’ attitude. I like to think we are better than that.”
Subcommittee Chair Larry Brewster and Councilman Chris Friedel suggested boosting the salary offer to $160,000, noting the council may well fill in that number — or another figure — when it considers Doyon’s contract Monday.
Mayor Tom Hanel, among the subcommittee members advocating for the lower salary offer, called Doyon’s move to Billings “a huge step for his future. I think it’s an honor to come to Billings, a city in very good condition with great leadership. I think that in itself has a value and some benefits for his future.”
“This is a great opportunity for Mr. Doyon,” Hanel added. “If he doesn’t take it, somebody else will be interested.”
But Bill Cole, who will succeed Hanel as mayor next month, said he’s concerned the lower offer “may be an effort on the part of the council to show control, which may be sending the wrong message.”
He said Billings’ compensation offer ought to be commensurate with “the city we want to become. A first-class city needs to offer first-class compensation.” He said Doyon should feel “happy, engaged and valued” when he arrives for work Feb. 1, 2018.
Doyon accepted the subcommittee’s offer of four weeks’ vacation along with three annual personal days, down from his earlier request for six weeks of annual leave.
The subcommittee upped its offer on a potential annual merit raise from a range of 0-5 percent to 0-6 percent, but reiterated its earlier rejection of Doyon’s desire to also be eligible for cost-of-living raises awarded to other city workers, including senior staff.
The subcommittee said it still wants three bids on Doyon’s moving expenses. His request was $12,000 for the move, including storage for up to six months; the subcommittee earlier countered with $7,000. Through Higginbotham, Doyon said he secured one bid of about $10,000, plus about $1,800 for six months of storage expense.
Higginbotham said he planned to speak with Doyon Thursday and will relay Doyon’s response to the subcommittee Friday morning.