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Downturn means even ‘exemplary’ city employees held to 2 percent raise

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 by Mark Richardson

City Manager Marc Ott, saying that city is facing the same “challenging economic climate” as many private sector companies face, has informed city workers that there will be no pay raises for merit this year.

 

Ott said in a memo last week that city staffers who achieve a “Satisfactory” or higher job performance ranking would receive a scheduled 2.5 percent pay increase at the end of December. However, employees receiving an “Above Average” or “Exemplary” will not be getting a higher raise, despite a plan put in place when the Council approved this year’s budget.

 

Police and EMS employees are both under separate contracts with the city that guarantee they will get a 2.5 percent pay raise. Firefighters did not agree to the proposed contract and will not get a raise this year.

 

In his memo, Ott said, “Until the economy dramatically improves, we’ll likely need to take many of the cuts your directors are now developing. … I’m confident that together we will be able to navigate through these challenges.” He also reminded staff that Service Incentive Enhancement and Service Incentive Pay would also be in pay envelopes on this week.

 

The cuts Ott refers to are theoretical at this point. The city manager recently asked all Department Directors to examine their budgets and find 2 percent that might be cut from expenditures. Those budget cuts are mainly an exercise in what is possible, and would not be made without a budget amendment approved by Council members.

 

This year’s city budget was based on an assumed 2 percent increase in state sales tax rebates. However, city budget planners are now projecting a possible drop in sales tax revenue. Ott did not say exactly how much money the city would save by not giving merit raises, but as some have noted, there are no layoffs of city staff planned at this time.

 

Jack Kirfman, local representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said nobody likes to lose money but in tough economic times, keeping people employed may take precedence.

 

Nobody wants to see this happening when people have worked hard,” he said. “But when it comes between money and jobs, this union always comes down on the side of jobs. I don’t think we’re at the end of this downturn.”

 

Kirfman said he hopes the city can find some way to recognize those employees who earn the higher rankings, and possible reward them monetarily somewhere down the road.

 

“During the downturn in the 1980’s, a lot of people who stayed with the city and received high marks for job performance got 5 percent later when things got better,” he said. “We need to look at what we’re going to do next year.”

 

In closing his memo to staff, Ott said he wished he could do more to reward staff, but during the current economic situation, it was all the city could manage.

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