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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by Jo Clifton
Updated: Council resolution would cut wage hike for most employees
City Council members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair have crafted a resolution that would cut the proposed salary increase for the majority of city employees and save the city an estimated $6 million in next year’s budget, according to their calculations.
Joining them in sponsoring the resolution are Council members Ora Houston and Sheri Gallo.
The city’s budget staff has proposed a 3 percent across-the-board salary increase for all non-sworn city employees, an estimated 10,172 people.
In May, Zimmerman proposed a 0.8 percent increase for all employees, except for sworn employees of the police, fire and EMS departments. He said he was basing his proposal on data from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the median hourly wage had increased by 0.801 percent between May 2013 and May 2014 in the Austin area.
Troxclair amended that resolution so that an estimated 345 employees making between $10 and $15 per hour would get a 3 percent raise, while those making between $15 and $25 per hour would get a 2.5 percent raise. According to figures supplied by Zimmerman’s office, 5,349 employees are in the second category.
Employees making between $25 and $35 per hour would get a 2 percent salary bump, and those making between $35 and $49.99 per hour would receive a 1.5 percent wage increase. Zimmerman’s office did not have a breakdown of how many employees are earning in each of those categories but said there were a total of 3,980 in the two combined classifications.
Under the resolution, employees making $50 per hour or more would get a raise of up to 0.8 percent. That group includes an estimated 498 employees.
All sworn APD and EMS employees are getting a 1 percent raise under their contracts with the city. Additionally, firefighters — who have not seen a raise in two years — will receive a 2.5 percent salary increase. According to a May financial forecast, “all sworn positions (are) above market.”
Zimmerman said that if adopted, the budget would reflect $4.5 million less in salaries and an additional $1.7 million in reduced contributions to the city’s retirement system and Social Security.
Zimmerman and Troxclair are also challenging city management on its authority over the salaries of department directors and assistant city managers. “I’d like to see the Council go in the direction of more supervision of city management,” Zimmerman told the Austin Monitor on Monday in explaining why the resolution would direct the city manager “to create yearly performance evaluations to be used when determining the percentage of wage increase” for ACMs and directors.
He pointed out that City Manager Marc Ott fired Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes earlier this year. That fact, he said, “tells me there’s not very good management going on. So that calls for the new City Council to better monitor the performance of the city manager.”
Zimmerman said, “As far as we know, there is no performance review (of assistant city managers and directors).” City spokesperson Bryce Bencivengo said that assistant city managers conduct performance reviews of department heads, and the city manager evaluates the performance of assistant city managers.
Update: Snipes called the Monitor this morning to dispute Zimmerman’s characterization of his departure as a firing. He said, “I by no means was fired. I resigned, trying to take the high road in trying to get the city and the organization past all of the issues surrounding the training. I found it disappointing that Zimmerman would say that I was fired to tie that to performance . . . I’ve always had exemplary reviews from the city manager. “
One of the arguments that Troxclair and Zimmerman make is that 70 percent of current municipal job salaries are at or above market. This premise is included in the resolution. That figure is derived from a financial forecast stating that “30% of non-sworn jobs remain under market” and “32 percent of non-sworn jobs currently are at least 5 percent above market.” Troxclair and Zimmerman make the assumption that the remaining percentage of jobs are at market; however, that is not specified in the report.
The report does state that those jobs paying above market are “primarily lower salaried positions.” So, the proposal may give those lower paid employees an increase that puts them at a salary that is still further above what is considered the market; meanwhile, employees higher on the pay scale may fall below the market rate.
The resolution will be on the Council agenda this Thursday.
This story has been updated.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
city budget: The city’s plan for expenditures based on income.
City Manager Marc Ott: Ott was hired by Council members in 2008 and served in that position until his 2016 departure.