Schlink to nix pay boost if approved by aldermen

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink announced last week that he will veto an ordinance awarding city employees one-time, lump-sum pay adjustments if it is approved by the Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted 4-3 Dec. 13 to approve City Administrator Petree Eastman’s recommendation that full-time employees receive a $1,500 one-time, lump-sum pay adjustment and permanent part-time employees receive a $1,000 one-time, lump-sum payment adjustment.

The pay adjustments would be for city workers employed as of Dec. 6, but would exclude new hires and the city administrator, who began her duties in October.

As proposed, the one-time lump-sum pay adjustments would be funded by using savings from positions that were unfilled during 2011. Savings from the unfilled positions totaled $161,982.95 while the cost of providing the adjustments would be $156,324.94.

Aldermen last week also approved the city’s 2012 budget, which does not include any increase in employee compensation for the third consecutive year.

The board’s vote directed City Attorney Rob Golterman to draft an ordinance to transfer sufficient funds from reserves in the fiscal 2012 general and park and stormwater funds to fund the one-time, lump-sum pay adjustment.

Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley’s motion was seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan. Besides Beezley and Duncan, Ward 2 Aldermen Chris Pickel and Steve Knarr voted in favor of the motion. Opposed were Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach and Ward 3 Aldermen Paul Duchild and Jerry Miguel. Ward 4 Alderman John Foote was absent.

After the board’s vote, Schlink said if aldermen approve an ordinance awarding the pay adjustment, he will veto the measure. The mayor said he would prefer to address salaries with a long-term solution by focusing on an employee pay plan.

“… I feel very strongly that there’s a different approach to it and once that it is presented as an ordinance, my plan is to veto that ordinance and to focus on the pay plan, to focus on reducing insurance costs for the employees and making that a priority …,” the mayor said.

Duncan then asked the city attorney, “… Under threat of veto, Mr. Golterman, can you tell me how many votes we need to override a veto?’

Duncan was told six votes are needed to override a veto.

Earlier during the meeting, Eastman said, “… There are concerns … in the community that possibly .. there are members of our community who haven’t seen a pay increase themselves over time and I would agree that although we should be sensitive to that, I doubt that when our employees go to purchase their goods and services to survive in this economy that even the elderly or those on fixed incomes would dispute that everyone needs an adjustment.

“And that just because they might not be receiving an adjustment doesn’t mean that everyone else should not get an adjustment.

“Our employees have not seen anything significant since before fiscal year 2005. Purely anecdotal evidence is not in my view a way to make sound policy. Here I’ve made a very measured approach to this and feel that because our employees have performed over the last two years without a pay increase despite increasing costs in their ability to obtain basic services that it’s only fair that they receive a cost-of-living-type adjustment,” Eastman continued.

“There’s also been discussion in the press that possibly, you know, we fire folks that aren’t grateful for having a job and hire those folks out there that are unemployed. But whether or not an employee is grateful for having a job is not really the question. If we would take a poll and find employees that aren’t grateful and fire them for not being grateful, the cost of recruitment, selection, training and overtime to fill those positions would be far greater than this minor increase that I have been recommending …”

Pickel later said, “At some point, you have to do the right thing and we have to do the right thing. And we’ve asked an awful lot of our employees over the years. I think this is a fair consideration. It’s certainly been widely publicized Crestwood was recently named the best place to raise a family in Missouri and the reasons that was attributed to us were the Lindbergh School District, the low tax base and the level of services we provide our residents.

“And I attribute that directly to the performance of our employees and I think it’s time that we try to make some amends. I would urge strong consideration of this proposal or a similar type of proposal …,” he added.

Miguel said, “… I really thought about this quite a bit over the weekend and the more I thought about it, the more I feel that any compensation granted to employees should … be in the form of salary. And the main reason I came to that conclusion … is that if we do nothing toward the way of salary a year from now, we’re further behind the eight ball or where we should be salarywise …”

For example, Miguel said if city employees are lagging 6 percent in salaries compared to average city salaries and nothing is done for a year, Crestwood employees will be 8 percent behind a year from now.

“So I would suggest that what really needs to be done here is that the pay plan needs to be dealt with and brought to the board and any dollars granted to employees could be … made retroactive to the first of January,” he said.

A one-time pay adjustment is a boost for employees, but it’s a short-term fix and not a long-term solution to the underlying problem, Miguel added.

“So my suggestion to the board is let’s deal with the pay plan and I would prefer to see us move in that direction ….

“Yes, the city has gone two years without a pay increase, but that is very typical, that is very normal in these times …,” he said, later adding that everyone’s purchasing power has diminished since the start of the recession. “So it’s not just our city employees that are hurting. It’s the whole country …”

Beezley said, “Well, I’m going to reiterate just a comment that Alderman Pickel made. We won a tremendous award in this community and we won that award because of the people that are sitting here in this room that are our employees. It is time that we do something to support them. There is nothing that would preclude us from continuing to develop a pay plan and having that as an additional option as we go forward — nothing.

“To continue to drag our feet and to not let our employees know how much we appreciate them because they’re the ones that made us win that award and if we don’t promo that in our community, that’s going to be sad for us.”

Duchild said he agreed with Miguel’s comments and read a statement outlining his objections to Eastman’s proposal. In his statement, he noted Eastman’s plan had not been approved by the Civil Service Board nor reviewed by the Ways and Means Committee, which “exists to ensure the financial impact of any revenue or spending decisions are not detrimental to the city.”

He also contended, “… This plan provides for the unequal distribution based on job classification. For a $29,000 secretarial position, this bonus constitutes 5.2 percent of annual pay, far more than the annual CPI. For a $90,000 position, the bonus is only 1.7 percent of salary. This is an unequal distribution of funds and is unfair as it discriminates against those employees in the higher ranges and does not accomplish the stated goal. The proposal implies that if the employees do not get a bonus, they will perform their duties at a lower standard. The employees should be insulted by this insinuation.

“The city administrator before she was appointed led this board to believe that she would approach the issue of pay based on a merit-based system … This was a determining factor for me for voting in favor of her appointment. I’m extremely disappointed she has conveniently put aside her stated beliefs to promote this plan. Had I known this was her interpretation of a merit-based system, I would have not have voted in favor of her appointment. Unfortunately, this new administration is slipping into the same cycle of hurry-up, do-it-now, forget-about-following-proper-procedures mentality that has plagued the board in the past …”

Schlink later said he had encouraged Eastman to take “more of a big-picture approach” to the salary issue.

“… The big picture is not just how the employee feels or how the taxpayers feel,” he said. “If we step back and we go to our budget discussions that we had and we talk about our five-year plan, we talk about some issues that we’re going to have in the future. We talked about needing to talk about revenue streams in the future. Well, what that means is what’s been communicated to me is extending our Proposition S that additional year that we can and then once that expires, is doing a no-tax tax increase to really extend Proposition S perpetually …”

Awarding bonuses, extending the Prop S tax and then asking voters to permanently extend it will cause the city to “lose traction to do anything for revenue streams going forward,” Schlink said. “Regardless of when the mall people announce anything, it’s going to be a minimum of a year, probably more than that, before that property comes on line. It’s going to be nowhere near the revenue stream it was before.

“So to me, that’s the big picture. It’s not making city employee one feel good today. It’s how can we make city employee one feel good for the next five years. And we can do something next year to compensate these folks and do it fairly and do it equitably …,” he said.