Concerns about spiraling salaries didn’t stop the Spokane City Council from passing a pay raise for the city’s top 16 administrators Monday night.
Council members voted 5-2 to approve 2.75 percent increases for the top six administrators and 3.25 percent raises for the next 10.
Councilman Chris Anderson, who previously supported the plan, cast one of the dissenting votes, saying that the “wage spiral” must end. He was joined by Councilwoman Roberta Greene, who said it was “time for us to draw a line in the sand.”
Despite his own concerns about rising costs, Councilman Jeff Colliton said it was important to raise the administrators’ pay so that they continue to earn more than the people they supervise.
Nearly all the council members said they disapproved of the way city salaries continue to increase each year. Unions negotiate pay hikes, and management gets them, too, they said.
Almost all union employees of the city received 3.25 percent raises this year.
“Has it ever happened in anybody’s memory that city employees don’t get a raise?” Greene said. “It seems to me there has to be some reality in what we’re doing.”
Greene also noted that most members of Spokane’s work force earn far less than city employees.
Several council members argued the city’s entire pay scale must be revamped so that union employees do without future increases or even take cuts.
Mayor Jack Geraghty proposed - and the council unanimously approved - a motion calling for future contract agreements with top managers that call for performance-based salary hikes. The measure states that “management positions will not be considered for annual, across-the-board adjustments that may be granted for rank and file employees.”
Taxpayers will pay top-scale managers about $25,000 more this year than last. The salary hikes take effect this week and won’t be retroactive to Jan. 1.
Upset by what they called a surprise move by City Manager Roger Crum, the council rejected the same pay proposal in December.
Poor revenues had departments cutting budgets and freezing hiring. Library workers voluntarily agreed to take days off without pay this year to avoid layoffs.
Crum’s early budget drafts didn’t include the management raises. Council members read about the proposed increases in the newspaper.
The council froze all non-union pay hikes for 90 days, referring discussions about how to increase pay to the finance committee.
The committee unanimously approved the pay raises for administrators, adopting Crum’s argument that union employees were guaranteed pay raises in spite of money problems. Non-union employees shouldn’t be punished, he said.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a revised land-use code aimed at streamlining the permit process for new developments.
The plan allows a developer to apply for all permits in one step. It also puts a time limit on how long a project’s approval can take.
Critics, including the Spokane Homebuilders Association, charge the code changes actually make the process more complicated.
Also Monday, the council adopted by a 6-1 vote an ethics policy that includes a definition of what constitutes “confidential information.”
Anderson voted against the policy, charging that the definition was too broad and placed a “gag order” on the council.