FY2012 Raises

In today’s “Our view: Give DeKalb staff its raises,” the Daily Chronicle argues on behalf of cost-of-living adjustments for management staff. Let’s respond to the reasoning for its vigorous advocacy on behalf of Biernacki & Co.

We know that while the city still has to be careful as it considers expenses, DeKalb’s financial status is not as shaky as it was a few years ago.

I never did get a satisfactory answer to the question of why the city is projecting a sudden 11.7%, $1.2 million increase in sales tax revenues, upon which half of the supposed General Fund “surplus” is based. It is one of several reasons I think of the FY2012 budget as a pretend budget and I think council ought not to treat it as a sure thing.

We cannot expect our governments to continually say “no raises” to its employees.

We do expect a continual “no” when the financial situation calls for it — and certainly when it’s also an established priority to build reserves to 25%.

The people in line for these raises work hard, shoulder more work than they have in the past and will be the ones that continue to look for solutions to the issues DeKalb faces. The city needs to take steps to retain good employees and provide a sign that the work these people do is appreciated.

Even assuming full functionality, in which good employees are retained and bad employees are shed, that’s not the point. There is no question that many city employees deserve raises. The question is whether the city can afford it, and the answer is that, generally, salaries are out of line with what a self-insured, possibly shrinking municipality with declining revenues can afford.

These are modest raises. Let’s face it. They won’t even cover the rising costs of gasoline or food.

I’m still waiting on raises to cover hikes since 2008 in city property taxes, gas taxes, utility taxes and the continual $80 annual increases in my water bills. AND the costs of gasoline and food. So: boo hoo.

City Manager Mark Biernacki said the cumulative cost of the increase for these 32 employees will be $39,000, and that amount was included in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which started July 1.

Did the Chronicle ask whether management Step increases were included, too? I did, and they are. That’s another 2% for the old timers and a whopping 16.75% increase for the FY2011 hires.

Then there’s the timing of these possible raises coming at the time when DeKalb is negotiating with all three unions. If the pay hikes are approved, there will be pressure to approve the same across the board. The sum of possible union raises is NOT included in the budget, and the city will not even answer hypothetical questions as to the amount, due to the sanctity of labor negotiations. But what we are looking at in toto is a situation where, if Council does not put the brakes on, it will very likely have to pass another tax increase to cover the cost of the goodies.