Council narrowly adopts pay increases for city workers
A deeply divided City Council adopted wage increases for city employees that haven’t seen an upward salary adjustment since 2011.
The pay increases come with a change in title and duties for administrators, and retroactive pay increases for most city workers. Police and fire personnel were excluded from the pay increases because they are in contract negotiations with the city and have received raises to compensate for required contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
While Mayor Bruce Hagen had originally proposed a 1 percent retroactive pay raise for city staff, the council amended that to give them a 2 percent increase to be paid back to July 1, 2013.
Those wage increases were included in the 2014 budget, said Finance Director Jean Vito
While the Council was anonymous in supporting the amendment to increase retroactive pay for city staff, the council divided when it came to supporting the entire package — which included $55,000 in pay increases for five city administrators and three administrative assistant positions that support the legal, human resources and mayor’s offices for the city.
Councilors Dan Olson, Warren Bender, Mick MacKenzie and Esther Dalbec voted against the wage and salary increases overall.
“As for some of the raises, some of them seem awfully high, especially when you think about $12,000 a year,” said Council President Warren Bender. “I know people that only make $12,000 a year.”
The administrators — the newly created Finance Director and Senior Administrative Officer (finance director), Director of Economic Development, Planning and Port (port and planning director), and Director of Information Services (information services manager) — would each receive a raise of $1,000 a month.
The city’s Parks and Recreation administrator, now the director of parks, forests, recreation, receives a $7,000 per year salary adjustment for the department level position, and the city’s human resources manager receives a $7,500 annual bump in pay as director of human resources. Administrative assistants would each see a $1,500 annual pay increase.
“This is really crazy, but I find it kind of ironic and disturbing,” MacKenzie said. “For months I’ve been hearing that we don’t have money for this. We don’t have money for that. We need to increase the sewer rates. There’s not enough money for that. The landfill is running a deficit; we need more money; where are we going to get it? We hear that all the time.”
Whether paying for a new animal shelter or improving railroad crossings to give residents relief from the blast of train horns, MacKenzie said it’s ironic that many of the same people who have said the city doesn’t have the money now say the city has money for pay increases.
However, the mayor said he stands by his two-phase proposal designed to bring wages in line with “market value.”
“I firmly believe we need to alter this downward spiral in order to support our current staff and be able to hire qualified candidates,” Hagen wrote in a memo to councilors.
Hagen said he “owns this” because it’s only fair to pay employees what they are worth.
After all, while the city hasn’t offered wage increases since 2011, city staff have also seen an average loss of about $3,100 annually in spending power in the wake of Act 10, which required public employees to pay more for health and a portion of their retirement benefits, according to human resource manager Cammi Koneczny.
Under the plan adopted by the Council, the city would continue to increase pay over the next three years to bring city workers to 90 percent of their value in the workplace.
During a mid-November meeting of councilors and city administration, Koneczny reported that one of the biggest challenges the city was facing was attracting and keeping qualified employees because wages are well below market. Wednesday, she said the last time the city did a comprehensive wage study was 2006, and Superior city workers were already falling about 15 percent behind market then.
“That’s only gotten worse,” Koneczny said.