Saturday, August 29, 2009

4th Question: City Workers Pay Raise

Here are the answers to the fourth question asked by the Tribune:

Considering economic conditions, should the city continue to give pay increases of more than 3 percent annually to city employees?

Rolland Leitheiser:Pay increases to the city employee are important to retain quality workers. The poor economy does not reduce the cost of living. It is the city's responsibility to support their employees, so the city should continue giving pay raises to the city employees.

Ed McKnight:The city should live within its means. Therefore, city employee pay should be in line with local economic standards and conditions regarding the cost of living.

John Rosenbaum:No, not necessarily 3 percent or any other amount. We need to understand the market so that we don't train and then lose valuable employees to the private sector or to other cities when our pay scales are not competitive.

Donna Zook:In order to answer the question of a more than 3 percent raise to city employees, I have to know if there is a contractual issue between the employees, the city and labor unions. If there is a contract involved, it has to be studied before a pay increase greater than 3 percent can be given.

Fred Burow:Most of the city employees are covered by a bargaining contract. That contract should be honored. City employees not covered by a contract should (receive) the same percent raise.

Kathleen Z. Gessaman:The city should not pay more for personnel costs than it can afford while maintaining a balanced budget and adequate reserves. Any pay raises for city employees should be closely tied to the cost of living — especially in difficult economic times like the nation is currently experiencing. To cut costs, many employers have reduced staff or pay levels; other employers have limited the hours their employees work. The city of Great Falls depends on the economic well-being of its citizens to continue to function and needs to always be aware of the hardships taxpayers are experiencing.

Robert G. Jones:The city needs to responsibly pay its employees. They are the most important assets the city directs to deliver services to the public. Many employee contracts are negotiated for periods of one to three years, taking into consideration what's best for the public, community and employees. If economic conditions change during the terms of the contract, it's unfortunate, but the contract has to be honored. I believe the pay increases given to city employees are the responsibility of city management. When management enters into the collective bargaining process, it should be based on the interests of both parties.

Michael Winters:If there is a contractual agreement with city employees agreeing to certain pay raises, and the city has signed off on the contract, then the city must live up to the agreement.

Mike Witsoe:I'm sorry, but I must say no. The cost of living and present economy dictate that the worst is not over. The taxpayers/property owners/senior citizens and the children aren't getting raises. We/they/I cannot give more than 3 percent annually. The people working in the public sector, business, state government and the general public are between a rock and a hard spot. No more raises.

Bill Bronson:Contracts approved for the two-year period July 2009-July 2011 provide for a 3.25 increase the first year, but the second-year increase is limited to 1.5 percent. The first year increase may seem high in relation to some wage increases in other sectors, but city employees did not have major increases in pay over the past few years, and the first-year increase was an appropriate way to play catch-up. These wage packages were negotiated in good faith with our various unions and should be honored. The amount of future increases will depend on several factors, including maintaining salaries competitive with the private sector.

Sandra Guynn:I would not have voted for this increase. In these tough economic times and the less than rosy financial picture of the city, an increase of 3 percent should not have been authorized. If elected your mayor, I will vote against any raises for the 2010-2011 budget year.

John Hubbard:No, until the economy has become more stable and we are out of the recession, we should avoid giving pay increases. We should put a freeze on raises and new taxes.

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