The city of Phoenix is again planning to include pay raises for city employees next year, and once again Councilman Sal DiCiccio is raising a call for it to stop.

"They say the budget breaks even," DiCiccio said. "That's a set up. What they should do is take that out and say there's some extra dollars, where does the community want that to go? That's an important debate to have. If you include that automatically you'll never have a real debate on that."

In a memo from Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher, the benefits are explained.

"The total compensation costs in the budget will follow the same practice as every year, which is to base costs on the current Council-adopted pay plan," Zuercher wrote. "Our budget will be developed assuming no increases in existing pay or benefits... Since merit pay and longevity pay are both a part of the current Council-adopted pay plan, they are assumed to continue for the purpose of developing the preliminary expenditure estimates.

"Of course, if merit and longevity is changed through collective bargaining, then the budget would also change in a corresponding manner.

"It's important to note that even if not changed, the total cost of merit and longevity could be slightly different next year (either higher or lower) based on the number of employees and their years of service."

Zuercher did mention in his memo to DiCiccio that the budget proposal is still being developed at this point, and that the Budget and Research Department is going through the current budget "line-by-line" with departments to ensure the budget contains only what is needed.

The preliminary estimate of 2012-13 costs will be presented to the City Council in late January or early February.

DiCiccio sent out an email after receiving Zuercher's memo. In it he congratulated the city for considering a zero-based budget, and then slammed city managers for still including pay raises in that budget.

"Here is the justification," DiCiccio wrote. "Because pay raises have been handed out every single year to government staff, that supposedly creates a new standard or baseline, and therefore pay raises should be included in every single budget. Huh?

"That isn't exactly what I or the public understand as zero-based budgeting. It's the exact opposite of zero-based budgeting. In my wildest dreams I never would have believed staff could create a new interpretation for the word ‘zero.'"

DiCiccio's email called on residents to call the city and demand the pay raises be taken out.

According to Zuercher's memo, the benefits are still being negotiated.

"Any change in compensation and benefits are subject to negotiation with the unions/associations and ratification by the City Council," Zuercher wrote. "This process has just begun and will be fully under way in January and February."

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