City workers will receive merit pay

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
— City workers who contributed to their pensions beginning in August will get most of that money back after Monday's council vote.

The $192,500 the city saved will be returned to employees via a one-time merit payment that will not be added to their base salaries.

One council member, Sam Liebert, said he voted to give workers raises because they chose not to unionize and they got "screwed by (Gov.) Scott Walker, to put it mildly."

He referred to state legislation that requires public workers to contribute half of their retirement pensions. The legislation does not cover firefighters and police officers, and it does not affect workers covered by union contracts.

City Manager Eric Levitt suggested the one-time payments to lessen discrepancies between union and non–

union employees, the latter of whom lost about 15 days of pay.

The 2012 city budget includes no merit pay or cost of living increases for non-union employees while union workers negotiated raises beginning at 1.75 percent.

Levitt had also suggested another $33,257 be taken from reserves to pay police and fire supervisors because they are not receiving raises next year.

Councilman Yuri Rashkin made a motion that the city use only the $192,500 from 2011 for merit pay.

The vote was 4-2 in favor of the payments, with council members Kathy Voskuil, Russ Steeber, Rashkin and Liebert voting in favor. Tom McDonald and Deb Dongarra-Adams voted against.

Steeber said workers affected are not only supervisors and engineers but clerical workers, as well.

In 2009, non-union employees received merit pay, and in 2010 they received a cost of living increase. In 2011, they received neither and also began paying 5.8 percent of their salaries into their retirement accounts, Steeber said.

Dongarra-Adams said she would love to give city workers more money, but nobody at her small business has had a raise in five years. She said her employees now are working only four days a week and have taken salary cuts and contributed more to their benefits.

Dongarra-Adams understands there should be no salary discrepensies, but that could be corrected when the union contracts run out in 2012, she said.

Liebert said many of the city workers affected are just "regular middle-class people—single parents trying to get by … I wish we could do more."

Levitt will not get merit pay.

Last updated: 6:50 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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