Phoenix hides staff pay raises/bonuses - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Phoenix hides staff pay raises/bonuses

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Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:00 pm | Updated: 6:23 pm, Fri Mar 16, 2012.

The budget the Phoenix City Council will consider this month includes at least $30 million in pay raises and bonuses for staff, and pays for that by draining the fund from which the city repays its debt.

I'll bet you didn't know that.

The reason you didn't know about the pay raises/bonuses is because no one told you. Not one time, not management, not politicians, no one. Until now.

In April, Phoenix went through an entire round of citizen hearings on the budget without telling taxpayers that city employees are getting raises and bonuses. In January, we asked city management to provide you the true cost of employee raises, including their cumulative effect. We still don't have the requested information because despite repeated requests, the city won't provide it. The bonuses and cumulative raises, which staff calls "merit" and "longevity," could be higher than $40 million. That will be in a separate vote. Contrary to council comments, the MOUs (Memorandums Of Understanding, essentially the labor contract between the city and employees) approved last year guarantee the pay cuts. A separate council vote granted the employee pay raises. This year, the council can and should vote down this pay raise, which is part of the budget.

A critical vote on the budget is next week, and staff still refuses to provide information critical for you, and the City Council, to know before the vote. Why? It would be embarrassing to the city manager if it's revealed that they've loaded the budget with pay raises after major cuts to library, senior and after-school programs and more.

Does this remind you what happened when Phoenix passed a new tax on food - with barely the legally required 24 hours notice to the public?

Not telling the public about raises, not providing requested budget information, not giving more than minimal notice of hikes - are not methods of a transparent government. Here's something else you haven't been told: It will increase your property tax.

To pay for these tens of millions of dollars in raises, the city manager would shift $54 million from debt repayment to pay daily expenses - creating a huge property tax liability for you and your neighbors.

Worse, last year, city management declared a crisis in the city's ability to repay bond obligations. So what does it do? It raids millions from that fund this year, which will create a crisis in the future that you will have to fix with higher taxes on your property.

Phoenix quietly has been shifting millions of dollars meant to pay off the capital project bonds to fund employee expense. What does this mean to you?

This policy creates a structural deficit, and the city will need to increase your property tax rate soon to pay for that shift of dollars. It will be sold to you as a "Floating Tax Rate." Beware of the word "floating." In government, taxes float in one direction only: Up.

You'll be asked to pay more but you won't be told what created the crisis. And, of course, you will not be told of the millions of dollars in pay raises and bonuses that it paid for.

What can you do? Phone, call, write, email and fax the city and get a commitment to reject both of these fiscally unsound ideas. Tell them to stop the pay raises; no more property tax hikes. I will not vote for a floating rate when the item comes to the council and believe you should get similar commitments from others.

• Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at council.district.6@phoenix.gov or (602) 262-7491.

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