Counting the dollars in city’s pay freeze
Though the checks for longevity are not cut until the latter end of the year, Marietta City Council approved a freeze for both step raises and longevity this month following the passage of a bare bones budget.
The cuts, which first occurred with stripping bare planned purchases last year after the city’s income tax proposal failed in the May election, have now impacted what the city’s longest serving employees take home at the end of the year.
“We do have skin in the game just like everyone else here,” said Engineering Project Manager Eric Lambert at a recent meeting council held with non-union, non-bargaining employees of the city to hear those employees concerns.
Approximately 82 positions saw a freeze on their earnings this year. That’s not to say the same won’t come of union employees, but with negotiations still ongoing, city administrators are only keeping council in the loop in executive session as authorized by Ohio Revised Code 121.22 (G) 4.
“The members of a public body may hold an executive session only after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an executive session and only at a regular or special meeting for the sole purpose of the consideration of… preparing for, conducting, or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment,” reads the section of the ORC.
“The extensions have been filed and we’re still in negotiations before arbitration,” said Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber Thursday. “We’d like to retain everyone’s job full-time so we can maintain services and employment, but there is an 81.8 percent likelihood we will experience cash flow problems this year.”
That likelihood stems from the amount of unencumbered funds available for operations and personnel expenses throughout the year, Dauber explained.
“If you get at points in the year where you’re spending more than you’re taking in you’re looking at deficiencies, we call those pinch points and they occur at different times in different years,” he said. “As we speak we’re in a precarious position.”
In 2007 the city ran a deficit the first four months of the year between what revenue was drawn in each month versus needed expenditures to run the city. In the following years: both in 2008 and 2009 every month saw a deficit, 2010 every month but December saw a deficit, the first nine months of 2011 were deficient and every month from January 2012 through November 2017 saw the same.
In that time, the carry-forward balance used to backstop payroll, utilities, fuel and essential operations expenses has dwindled.
“We have bled that carry-forward balance over the years, the last surplus year was in 2011 before the end of 2017,” said Dauber. “Now with the first surplus in six years that brings (2019) down to about a 27.3 percent chance of short-term solvency and liquidity problems.”
Meanwhile employees outside of the bargaining blocks are concerned with the disparity between the suspension.
“How can it be fair to have someone who has been here more than 20 years losing thousands while someone who makes almost twice that salary only losing a couple hundred,” noted Streets Superintendent Todd Stockel.
Longevity pay for the city is a mechanism used to incentivize employees to stick around with their institutional memory of city functions and needs.
“As you increase your tenure here you’re a more valuable employee,” said Dauber. “You have to be here for a while before you qualify for longevity pay.”
It kicks in after five years of completed service at 1 percent of the individual’s salary and maxes out at 6 percent at 23 years of service.
Non-union compensation ranges from $22,068.80 per year ($10.61 hourly rate) to $93,172 per year depending on position and step-increase level, not including the longevity.
By the numbers
Marietta City Non-Bargaining Employees by years of service:
¯ 23 + years: 6.
¯ 19-22 years: 6.
¯ 15-18 years: 5.
¯ 11-14 years: 2.
¯ 8-10 years: 3.
¯ 5-7 years: 8.
¯ By freezing longevity pay and step raises for 2018 the city is saving $81,509.81 to shore up the general fund carry-forward for 2019.
¯ Minimum Loss: $377.52.
¯ Lower Quartile: $1,328.34.
¯ Upper Quartile: $2,665.
¯ Maximum Loss: $4,598.04.
¯ Marietta employs 69 non-union, non-elected employees.
Source: Marietta City Auditor Sherri Hess.