The Spokane Valley City Council unanimously passed its budget for 2011 Tuesday night, despite objections by Councilman Bill Gothmann to the cut in a cost of living adjustment raise to nonunion employees.
Gothmann said that when the city was founded, the council made certain promises to its employees.
“We made an agreement with all employees that nonreps (nonunion employees) would be treated the same as reps,” Gothmann said.
Union employees in the new budget will get a 21/2 percent raise in 2011, while nonunion employees will not.
After Gothmann spoke for a while, Councilwoman Brenda Grassel objected to the direction of the discussion.
“Is this really part of our agenda?” Grassel asked.
Mayor Tom Towey allowed Gothmann to continue, stating that the discussion was part of the budget in general.
“My conscience cannot condone dishonoring the agreement,” Gothmann said.
As an example, he said there were eight administrative assistants on the city payroll, all with the same job description. Denying one of those employees a COLA is in effect discriminating against one of those employees, since there is only one of them who is not part of a union.
“The city has a legal right to discriminate,” he said. “Even if it’s legal, it’s immoral,” Gothmann continued.
Although Gothmann still voted to approve the budget, he still felt it was dishonorable of the city to make this cut.
“I fear for the future of our city,” Gothmann said.
Councilman Dean Grafos admitted this cut was quite emotional for the council, but he said the cut was vital to avoid long-term budget woes in the city, which sometime in the future could mean massive layoffs.
“You can’t stick your head in the sand, Bill,” Grafos told Gothmann.
“I don’t think there is any indication of massive layoffs anywhere,” said Councilwoman Rose Dempsey.
Grassel then told Dempsey and Gothmann that the two councilmembers had no credibility when talking about budget cuts because of their voting record.
“There is no reduction that you two have supported,” Grassel said.
Dempsey said the council was taking the financial projections as fact, and she didn’t agree with that. She said the projections never turned out to be that dire.
Regardless of the arguments surrounding the budget, the council did vote unanimously to approve it.