A proposed salary hike of up to 6 percent for some management-level employees generated more questions than answers for the Medford City Council Thursday.

A proposed salary hike of up to 6 percent for some management-level employees generated more questions than answers for the Medford City Council Thursday.

The proposed change, which would affect the city manager, supervisory managers and other senior support staff, would grant an across-the-board 1 percent increase for 104 employees.

In addition, 42 of these employees would receive up to an extra 5 percent raise as part of a plan to adjust compensation based on education levels, said Doug Detling, the city's human resources director. Some employees already were receiving extra pay for bachelor's and master's degrees, while others were not, he said.

The net effect is that some employees, including the City Manager Eric Swanson and Detling himself, could receive as much as a 6 percent raise, he said.

Under the proposal, top managers would get a 5 percent increase for holding a master's degree in any field.

Lower-level management positions would need a bachelor's degree in any field to get the extra compensation.

The fiscal impact to the city to increase the salary and health benefits through the end of the current biennial budget that ends in June 2013 is estimated at $282,000.

Councilman Chris Corcoran asked Thursday for more time to study the issue and to determine the long-range financial impact on the city.

"The complexity of the information is pretty hard to grab on the fly," he said. "There is a significant cost to implement this. What's the ongoing increase in costs going to be?"

He said he believes management-level staff need to be compensated fairly, but he said it's difficult to ask city bargaining units for no increase in salaries if managers are getting a wage increase.

"There is a very small percentage of the community that makes the kind of salaries our managers do," he said. "We have to be very cognizant about what's taking place in the private sector."

Councilman Dick Gordon said he didn't have a firm understanding of the compensation proposal, saying the material presented left a lot of unanswered questions.

"It's a complicated matter," Gordon said.

But Gordon said he supports the proposal for 1 percent in additional pay.

"As far as pay, these 104 folks have not had a pay increase during the past two Julys," he said.

Detling said some employees have been receiving 5 percent additional compensation for their education levels over the past 20 years.

Detling said the city has developed a complicated system of rewarding some employees for holding certain degrees, but doesn't provide compensation for other types of degrees.

For instance, a public works business manager already receives 5 percent in extra compensation for holding a master's degree in business administration, but, under the current system, wouldn't be entitled to extra compensation for a degree in public administration. (Correction: Information about the Public works director educational increase has been changed.)

"The degree is irrelevant," Detling said. "In the great scheme of things, it is not material to the job."

The proposal to change salaries has been studied since 2007 because some employees were receiving compensation for one type of degree while another employee was receiving no compensation for another degree.

Detling said he has a master's degree in public policy but currently would be eligible for a 5 percent increase only if he has a master's degree in public administration with an emphasis in personnel management.

He said a similar compensation proposal was tabled in 2010 because the City Council was concerned about the city budget in light of the economic downturn.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.