Merced city staff to get extra cash

05/22/2014 9:11 PM

05/22/2014 11:21 PM

Dozens of city employees, who have gone almost six years without a raise, will get a one-time payment approved this week by the City Council.

City Manager John Bramble said the payment will go to 74 city employees and totals about $95,000. Neither Bramble nor the city attorney is among the 74 employees.

The last raise any city employee received was in December 2008. It is common for unions to negotiate a cost-of-living raise annually.

Employees have also seen smaller paychecks because they agreed to pay more for health insurance and retirement, concessions made to help balance the budget and reduce the number of layoffs during a slumping economy.

“I’m very happy that the one-time adjustments went through,” Bramble said. “It’s something that will help the employees.”

The size of the payments per employee were based on classification: confidential employees get $846; supervisory, $975; middle management, $1,391; and executive managers, $1,784.

The money is considered a one-time, flat payment, not a bonus. A bonus would require retirement costs from the city and each employee. However, taxes still apply and are the responsibility of each employee.

The council voted to approve the payments 6-1 on Monday. Councilman Noah Lor cast the dissenting vote, saying the amount given to each employee should be uniform. “I don’t feel that there is equality across the board for staff and management,” he said.

Other employees who get paid from the general fund received a similar payment this month. On May 5, the council voted unanimously to give a one-time adjustment of $1,000 to each firefighter.

Being able to vote to fatten the wallets of city employees was a welcome change of pace, said Councilman Josh Pedrozo. He’s been part of the council since 2009 and was in the seat when budget cuts mandated layoffs, he said.

“It’s not going to get them back to where we were, but at least it’s something,” he said about the payment. “We’re reaching out to them and saying, ‘We appreciate the sacrifices you have made.’ ”

The payments come as many youth advocates have called for money to expand services for young people. Andres Reyes, whose nonprofit We’Ced works with young people, has been to just about every budget meeting with that purpose.

Reyes said youth advocates have no intention of getting money at the expense of employees’ salaries and commended the council’s decision.

He said money for more youth services will come from taking a hard look for extra cash somewhere else in the budget. “It’s a complex problem that’s going to need a complex solution.” he said.

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