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Proposed city budget contains some raises

THURSDAY, NOV. 1, 2012

Council members question pay hikes for finance managers

At the same time he has proposed eliminating 100 jobs, Spokane Mayor David Condon is calling for big raises in the 2013 budget for administrators in the city’s finance division.

The increases have sparked concern among some City Council members, especially since the raises weren’t mentioned during a City Council briefing about the finance department’s proposed budget last week.

The budget Condon proposed to the City Council earlier this month includes more than $50,000 in raises to three finance managers, including a $20,000 raise for Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley that would take his salary to $143,000.

Cooley said the raises are the result of reorganization that eliminated two manager positions. A third administrative job remains vacant and may be eliminated. Many of the duties have shifted to the remaining managers, he said. Even considering salary increases, the changes result in at least $170,000 in savings, he said.

“It’s never the wrong time to create efficiencies and effectiveness, and there’s usually a cost to doing that,” Cooley said. “We’re doing a better job and we’re doing it for a lot less.”

City Council President Ben Stuckart said Cooley and two other finance division employees may deserve raises, but not in a budget in which others are losing their jobs. He said he won’t support a budget that includes the pay raises.

“You can’t have somebody get a 16 percent raise when somebody is losing their job,” Stuckart said. “That’s not moral.”

Earlier this year, Condon fired Risk Manager Pam Schroeder and Treasurer Ellen Dolan. Cooley has taken leadership of the city’s Management Information Services division and has opted to eliminate an assistant manager’s position. Many of the risk management duties have shifted to Budget Director Tim Dunivant. His pay is scheduled to rise $20,000 to $128,000.

Treasurer duties have shifted in large part to Accounting Director Pam Dolan, who is not related to Ellen Dolan. Her salary would rise by $12,000 to $126,000 under the budget plan.

Carly Cortright, president of the Spokane Managerial and Professional Association, said the administrators’ raises, particularly Cooley’s, at the same time her union agreed to a pay freeze hurts worker morale. About 30 of the union’s members are accountants.

“To me, having the CFO get a $20,000 increase when the people in his department doing the actual work have not gotten a raise, there’s a discrepancy there,” she said.

City Councilman Mike Allen said he supports the raises, given the big increase in responsibilities, to keep up with market compensation for important positions.

“It is critical that we keep highly competent people in these positions who would be very difficult to replace,” he said.

But City Councilman Mike Fagan said now is not the time for the kind of raises he’s seen proposed for the finance managers, especially after many rank-and-file workers have agreed to freezes.

“When I saw that I about choked on my coffee,” Fagan said. “On behalf of the other people of the city who are having to scrape and cut back, it definitely raises an eyebrow.”

He said he agrees that employees who have been asked to take on more duties should generally be compensated for it, but probably not in a time of reductions.

Stuckart said the argument that administrators deserve more pay when they take on more duties falls flat when rank-and-file members are being asked to do more with less without additional pay.

“Are we going to pay the remaining street stripers more?” Stuckart said.

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