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DiCiccio: Phoenix employee benefits under scrutiny

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Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 12:00 pm

The city of Phoenix is beginning to feel some pressure as some wonder if their employee benefits may be costing taxpayers too much.

According to City of Phoenix benefits, first-year office and clerical staff are offered 40.5 paid days off per year compared to other cities such as Mesa and Chandler, which give their employees 36 days of paid leave.

"It's a system that's built to protect itself," said Sal DiCiccio who drafted SB 1345, which aims to make changes to city benefits. "It's not ridiculous compared to other cities, but it is compared to the people who pay for it - the taxpayers."

DiCiccio said he believes time off decreases productivity and ends up costing taxpayers more when employees need overtime to make up for lost work.

Some in the mayor's office agree that the city may need to make some changes, but they are taking necessary steps to make educated decisions, said Karen Peters, government relations director for the city of Phoenix.

"How many of those are vacation days? How many of those are sick days? If you don't get sick, you don't get paid so I don't think that's out of whack," said Peters.

A first-year clerk is given 12 days of vacation, which is consistent with most other cities in Maricopa County. The city, however, gives 15 days of sick leave, which is three more than most other cities. Benefits also include 11.5 holidays and two personal days.

A task force of community members has been hired by the city to make some recommendations about employee benefits. The city has also put out bids to the private sector to research compensation levels among cities of the same size for a more accurate comparison, Peters said. This research process is expected to last through the summer and be submitted to the city in the fall.

According to a city of Phoenix employee handbook, the average cost of a city employee during the 2009-10 fiscal year was $97,707 including benefits, salary and pension. That is up $6,748 from the year before.

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