Kevin Musick, traffic control supervisor with Public Works, listens to attorney Eric Dixon talk about the need for city employees to receive a pay raise during a revenue review committee meeting Tuesday at City Hall. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
Several city employees left a Revenue Review Committee meeting Tuesday in disgust, saying city officials cared little about the well-being of their future and families.
The Committee voted to recommend the City Commission use an estimated $680,000 to fund pay increases for about 280 employees, an average of about $2,400 extra a year per employee. The amount, however, fell short of the expectations of several city workers, they said, especially after about 50 Clovis police officers received a $714,000 raise in November.
“They don’t consider us equal, isn’t it obvious,” said Ray Bottari, a mechanic working for the city’s public works department, after the meeting. “They go ahead and approve all that money for police, just like that, and we’re having to fight and scrape for a little pay increase. We’re not against the police, the police deserve everything they got and then more, but the thing is it’s discriminatory.”
The recommendation will now go before the City Commission, but City Manager Joe Thomas cautioned city workers from getting too worked up over the recommendation.
The Commission has the final decision, he said, and commissioners could well decide to implement a property tax, or portions of the tax, to increase wages even more.
The Commission could also, he said, decline the Revenue Review Committee’s recommendation altogether.
The Committee spent months number-crunching and reallocating funds to come up with the $680,000 figure, Thomas said, and it was the best the Committee could do given the city’s budget.
Local businessman and Committee member Jim Sitterly said the group’s approach was flawed and the group should attempt to find more money by possibly cutting services and overhead, much like a business owner would do.
“It’s a matter of economics, would (residents) rather have this service cut back or their taxes increased,” Sitterly said.
Salary increases should be done so slowly, surely and more often based on performance than across the board, Sitterly said.
“By throwing this money on the fire because of a problem you guys caused with the salary increases you guys gave to the (police) department ... isn’t the answer. You’re throwing gasoline on a fire hoping it goes out,” he said.
City officials countered by saying municipal governments have certain obligations to the taxpayer for services, whereas businesses do not. A business can shut down and move, a city cannot.
Portales attorney Eric Dixon, representing “numerous disaffected city employees,” spoke to the Committee about possible pay increases for his clients following the vote.
He said of the 115 employees of the city’s public works department, 20 received federal assistance and 26 have no medical insurance because they cannot afford the premium.
Committee members told Dixon they are not charged with setting city employees’ salaries, but a group formed to find excess money in the budget through number-crunching and spending cuts.
The proposed raise wasn’t enough, though, Wastewater Superintendent Durwood Billington said.
“They’ve proven to us that (the police department) is more important, they don’t care about us, and (my employees) don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t care,” he said.
Billington said he has about seven members of his crew applying for jobs at the Southwest Cheese Plant because of low pay.
“When you can push a broom for $11, $12 an hour at the cheese plant,” he said, “I’ll be damned if these guys are going to want to dig in crap water for $8 an hour.”
The Revenue Review Committee on Tuesday recommended the following actions take place to fund a pay raise for 290 city employees. Note that these are estimates and the City Commission has final approval.
— Rededication of 1.5 mills property tax for drainage to general fund (Funds offset by $280,000 undedicated portion of tax, and $140,000 of police and fire capital outlay).
— Rededication of money that currently goes to police and fire department capital outlay projects.
— excess of general gross receipts tax can go to general fund. The money is part of an excess amount going to pay off a bond for the landfill.
— Increase in building permit fees.
— Increase in fees at Clovis Municipal Golf Course.
— Increase in fees at airport.
— Money to fund annual step-pay increases for police.
— Total proposed increase for city employees (excluding police).
Source: Clovis Revenue Review Committee