A majority of the Walla Walla City Council members don’t seem to read the mood of the public.
The Council, on a 5-2 vote, granted City Manager Nabiel Shawa a 3 percent raise (on top of the 2 percent raise handed out last spring) on Wednesday night. Shawa’s pay bump brings his salary to just over $147,000.
In addition, the Council gave City Attorney Tim Donaldson an 8.5 percent pay raise, boosting his annual salary from $119,523 to $129,780.
Top City Salaries
Directors 2014 Annual Salary
Library Director $86,604
Parks Director $112,428
Fire Chief $118,752
Police Chief $128,340
Public Works Director $122,472
Deputy City Manager $118,392
The city’s six department heads, five of whom have six-figure salaries, received a 5 percent pay hike — 2 percent as a regular increase and 3 percent for their individual performances approved by the city manager.
Meanwhile, the rank-and-file city workers will be getting a 2 percent raise.
We’ve got no concern with the workers getting a pay hike. And a 2 percent bump for the department heads is reasonable.
But going beyond that is ill timed and insulting to taxpayers in the wake of the Council’s recent decision to raise taxes in November.
City Council members Chris Plucker and Mary Lou Jenkins, the two dissenters, offered excellent reasons for voting against the pay raises.
“Last year I voted and I think many on this Council voted to implement a new tax, and now we are seeing some new pay raises in 2014,” Plucker said. “I don’t think it is fair to the people that we represent that we go and raise taxes and the following year boost salaries when many of our citizens struggle.”
Jenkins, following the same theme, said: “We tax people and turn around and give it to our city employees. That is a very difficult decision for this Council to make.”
The property tax hike — an overall increase of 4.8 percent — is expected to garner the city an extra $233,000 a year.
Hmmm, about $50,000 of it will be eaten up by the management team’s pay raises.
All seven Council members agreed that Shawa and Donaldson are doing a good job. They are correct. The concerns about pay raises are no reflection on their excellent jobs performances.
It is important to pay the leaders at City Hall a competitive wage so Walla Walla can attract and retain talented people. That’s being done. The folks in place aren’t leaving in droves for more pay elsewhere.
Walla Walla’s economy has not fully rebounded from the Great Recession. Taxpayers are, understandably, grumbling about the impact taxes have on their ability to pay bills. A lot of people are doing without things to make ends meet.
A great many taxpayers aren’t happy, and perhaps some are downright angry, about these raises. And boosting the pay for city management by 5 percent while giving the workers just 2 percent more (on significantly lower salaries) isn’t doing much to build the esprit de corps at City Hall.
Giving the city’s top officials a pay raise at this time is not good leadership by Council members. And it shows they aren’t necessarily tuned into the feelings of their constituents.