DiCiccio wants Village Planning Committee to expand mission
City Councilman Sal DiCiccio.

The City Council recently approved a budget that included pay raises and bonuses for some city employees but Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee Foothills says it's not too late for concerned citizens to make their voices heard and have those pay raises removed.

DiCiccio said the vote that took place May 24 was the first vote on the budget. It was approved in a vote of 6-2 with DiCiccio and Councilman Bill Gates being the only ones against it. The council will have another chance to vote in June and before then it's up to the public to let the council know how they feel.

"The City Council could still change directions with this budget if the public starts demanding that these pay raises not be included in this budget," DiCiccio said. "That's the only way you're going to change this is if the public starts calling. They need to call the mayor's office, the city manager and the City Council. I would have them call each of the mayoral candidates, too."

DiCiccio said he did not approve of the budget for the same reason he opposed it last year. He does not agree with the pay raises in the budget and wants more transparency to the public about those pay raises.

The pay raises included in the budget are $17.3 million in longevity and $11.6 million in merit-pay increases. DiCiccio said it's the same as bonuses and pay raises but placed under a different name. The city also has a "step" program that gives employees raises each year if they meet performance goals.

"In order to attract and retain the best employees, the city has a ‘step' increase performance system," a release from the city of Phoenix said. "An employee who has worked for the city for five years should earn more than an employee who has worked for the city for one year."

City Councilman Claude Mattox approved the budget during the May 24 meeting. In a debate later that night at the Ahwatukee Republican Women meeting he sent Peggy Bilstein as a representative in his place because he was double booked.

Bilstein said the pay raises needed to be approved to uphold labor agreements city employees made years ago. Ignoring those labor agreements would be calling for a lawsuit, she said. Mattox was the only Republican candidate running for mayor who said he would have approved the budget.

DiCiccio believes the city employee benefits contained in the budget were only part of the problem.

The budget lacked transparency about shifting money from debt repayment to daily operations. This could create problems for the city down the road.

The council will vote on the budget again on June 8. If adopted, final action will be taken on June 22 and the budget will take effect July 1.

Residents are invited to attend a Community Budget Informational Session at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 7 at the Burton Barr Library's Pullium Auditorium, 1221 N. Central Ave.

City departments will provide information on the availability of budgetary and financial records, budget process, city property tax, employee pay and an Innovation and Efficiency update at the session.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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