Showing posts with label compensation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label compensation. Show all posts

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."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rockville employee compensation discussion to return for vote July 13

A tabled discussion over Rockville city employee compensation and classification will return to the Mayor and Council for action at their July 13 meeting. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Beryl Feinberg have requested further information from the consulting firm hired by the city, Evergreen.

Newton confirmed at last night's meeting that their request had been submitted to Evergreen, with a deadline of July 1 to receive data on the potential for a hybrid system that could employ salary step increases. The current proposal that failed to receive majority support would have utilized annual leave, rather than steps.

Rockville City Manager Barbara Matthews said the cost of the additional study is $4000. The Mayor and Council voted unanimously last night to place the compensation issue on the agenda of their July 13 meeting. A final vote on the issue is likely that evening, as well.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mayor & Council table discussion of compensation for Rockville employees, want more data

Representatives of the union representing Rockville's police officers expressed displeasure with a proposal to substitute annual leave for salary step increases at last night's Mayor and Council meeting.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 117 President Michelle Milne pointedly noted that "annual leave doesn't pay the mortgage," during the Community Forum before the compensation discussion.

By the end of the evening, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Beryl Feinberg were also less than satisfied with the options on the table after a Compensation and Classification study funded by the city.

Seeking more information as to whether a hybrid plan could accommodate step increases to any extent, the three sought to table the discussion until such analysis could be completed by consultant Evergreen.

Councilmember Tom Moore said such a move was impermissible under the rules. He said the Mayor and Council had already voted on that issue at a prior meeting, and that it was too late to reconsider that vote. Newton said she was "disappointed" that Moore did not want the body to obtain more information. "You lost that vote," Moore insisted, accusing his three colleagues of "blowing up" the discussion. "I didn't lose them, I didn't blow this up," Newton replied. "It is incumbent upon the Mayor and Council to ensure we receive all the information we need to make a decision."

"I suggest we take a break," to have the City Clerk review the transcript of the May 11, 2015 meeting where the vote(s) in question were taken, Moore insisted.

Onley said, "I think we can change our minds." The options on the table were Evergreen's, "not ours," Newton said. Onley then made a motion to table the discussion.

A motion to table would be inappropriate under Robert's Rules, Moore argued.

"We are not Robert's Rules," Feinberg shot back. "We've been through this before - we do not follow Robert's Rules, we have our own rules here."

Moore turned to Onley and said, "This discussion was going great. I don't understand why all of a sudden...we're talking about ending the discussion. We were five minutes away" from reaching consensus, he said. Moore conceded that Newton, Onley and Feinberg were raising "legitimate questions," but "our votes matter."

A frustrated Onley fired back. "I don't want to say anything disrespectful...[but] five minutes doesn't mean a damn thing - and I apologize, because I don't usually talk like that - if we're not taking care of our employees."

Feinberg said "It is so vitally important to every staff member that we get this right. I want to do the right thing." She suggested a few months' delay would not have a major impact, as there are funds in reserve.

Moore was unconvinced. "We made that decision," he said. "Maybe you didn't like it, but we made it." He stated that he would prefer to approve the recommendations of Evergreen, and then consider "what is the best way to make up for six tough years."

Newton responded that "If there are a number of us who feel we didn't get the information we wanted," that it was appropriate to pause the discussion until that information could be furnished. She said the possibility of police sergeants making less than employees with less time was an example of why the city should consider a hybrid plan. She also said it was worth exploring whether steps would be less expensive than what Evergreen has proposed. "Getting it right matters a lot," she concluded.

The Mayor then said she would entertain Onley's motion to table the discussion.

"Point of order," Moore called out, saying there was another motion on the floor. There was disagreement as to whether that was accurate, requiring a consultation with the City Attorney, Debra Yerg Daniel. "Under our rules, it's the Mayor's call what happens," Daniel said, although councilmembers could appeal her ruling.

"We've spent twenty minutes hassling" over a dispute that could have been avoided if the Mayor and Council had received the information they had previously asked for, Newton said. She again entertained Onley's motion to table the discussion, which passed 3-2, with Moore and Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr opposed.

"Before any money is spent with Evergreen," Moore said after the vote, "I would like an accounting of what it would cost." He also insisted that those seeking the information put their requests to Evergreen in writing, so that there would be no dispute when the Mayor and Council resume the discussion at a later date. They agreed to do so.

It was not known as of last night how much time would be needed to comply with the data requests.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


The union that represents Rockville's police officers is asking the Mayor and Council to reverse cutbacks in officers' compensation, now that the recession is over. Officer Jan Seilhamer, who is the union's president (and an Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm), said "morale is at an all-time low within the police department," due to the reductions.

Speaking at the last council meeting, Seilhamer argued that the city can easily afford to restore step increases to officers, as jurisdictions with worse economies have already done so. A forensic accountant the Rockville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 117 hired to review the city's finances concluded the city is in "excellent financial health," Seilhamer noted.

Given that context, Seilhamer said, officers see "a mayor and council who do not value our contributions and sacrifices. We have sacrificed time with our families, we have sacrificed our bodies for this city."

A one-time FY-2015 bonus is "unacceptable," Seilhamer said, especially when officers may be ordered to contribute more to their retirement plans, to boot.

Seilhamer pointed to the amount of the city's surplus being spent on capital improvement projects in the budget as evidence of misplaced priorities. "When are you going to make the people who help make this city so great a priority?" she asked.

The mayor and council did not publicly respond to the issue in their Response to Community Forum directly following Seilhamer's testimony.