Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mayor and Council adopt new compensation structure for Rockville employees

Around quarter to midnight last night, Rockville's Mayor and Council reached a consensus on new guidelines for city employee compensation and classification policies. After hours of discussion to reach that point, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton noted that the body still had 12 items left on the meeting's agenda. While the city will adopt a hybrid system that includes steps for city police and employees represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the final approach adopted was not the most generous on the table.

The city's Chief Financial Officer, Gavin Cohen, prepared a one-page table that laid out the fiscal implications of providing anything more generous than what staff and consultant Evergreen recommended earlier this year.
Fiscal Impact chart
(click to enlarge)
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg asked if the chart reflected the potential $800,000+ in financial obligations the city might ultimately have to bear as a result of the Supreme Court's Wynne decision. Cohen said it did not. Ditto for additional financial obligations and capital expenditures in FY 2017-19.

On the question of whether the city could afford to offer COLAs and step increases together, Cohen said "we don't believe that we can without" significant changes to either revenue or expenditures.

Newton argued that "We are in this position because we have let 6 years go by without doing anything compensation wise. One of the reasons we don’t have the wherewithal….is because we went to 20% reserves." Despite surpluses during several of those years, city employees never received step increases, she said. Spending decisions "have limited this body’s decision making capabilities" on employee compensation.

Councilmember Virginia Onley asked Cohen, "Had we not had increased the reserve…how much of this sheet would have been green had we voted” to not go to 20% reserves? "From my perspective, none of them would have changed," Cohen responded. "The problem isn’t the …. reserves. The problem is ongoing. We should differentiate between the pot of money that you have, and the ongoing expenditure. That becomes the problem. It’s the combination of the things that makes it unsustainable.

"It’s the compounding” that makes it more expensive, Cohen said. "You start in '16, it’s the compounding of that” that is going to make it prohibitively expensive.

"We’re doing a disservice to the rank and file staff," Newton said. The mayor recalled her time on the council during the recession, when city employees' compensation dry spell began. "I bought into it," she said of the fiscally-conservative approach. But she believed "that we would make that change as soon as we" could, she said regarding restoring salary increases. Such a boost "honors the work that people in the city do," Newton argued. "The rank and file have not even gotten a COLA or a bump. I think we need to be honest about things. I really think you’re being disingenuous…you want to scare our city, scare our staff, into thinking that we don’t have the money."

When it came time to vote on the action items in the report, controversy resurfaced over what Councilmember Tom Moore said was reopening a discussion that had been settled by an early May vote on Item 1.

That item read, "Maintain the adopted compensation philosophy or modify the philosophy to accommodate step pay plans for AFSCME and Police."

"As far as I’m concerned," Moore said, "we decided that May 11. When we vote on something it matters."

"I would go for an hybrid plan which would have the FOP on a step plan, and administrative staff on an open range plan," Feinberg said.

Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr suggested having the City Attorney settle the question. City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel said the mayor and council were free to vote again on the question from a legal standpoint. "The mayor runs the meeting," she said.

Newton then attempted to call the vote.

"We can go through this lawlessly if you like," Moore said, arguing the mayor wanted to “blow through the rules." "The mayor is not 'blowing through our rules,'" Newton replied. "The mayor is following the advice of our city attorney."

Newton called the vote again. Moore appealed her decision under council rules. Moore, Onley and Palakovich Carr then voted 3-2 to overrule the mayor's decision. Feinberg then moved to adopt a compensation philosophy with steps for police and AFSCME, but not for administrative employees. Onley seconded her motion. The motion passed 3-2, with Moore and Palakovich Carr opposed.

For Item 2, "Approve a new classification structure for FY 2016 consistent with the results of the Compensation and Classification Study performed by the City's consultant," Newton had concerns about having different compensation at the Director level across city staff. Ultimately, she abstained from the vote, which passed 4-0-1.

Item 3, "Approve a new pay structure (single or multiple) consistent with the information provided by the City's consultant," passed 3-2.

Under Item 4, the Mayor and Council adopted an implementation approach with 50% penetration by a 3-2 vote.

The body stuck on the question of bonus compensation in FY-2016, with several motions failing for lack of a second.

Finally, a 3-2 vote passed Feinberg's motion to adopt Tract B, 50%, Lump Sum (see chart).

At 11:45, Feinberg said, "It’s been a painful process, I think, for everybody."

No comments:

Post a Comment