Pay hike for City Hall management sends wrong signal

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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.

Comments

namvet60 3 months, 1 week ago

Maybe the city fathers have forgotten the definition of Public Servant? When the working stiffs get stiffed and the higher echelon gets commended for the workers achievements, something is wrong.

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downhillracer 3 months, 1 week ago

What's wrong is your analysis.

Exactly how did the "working stiff get stiffed"? Are you insinuating the "higher echelon" does nothing to earn their pay to feed their families, or do you just rant and complain about how you're "Taxed To Much"?

Have you followed the rest of the story to understand the "working stiffs" are in negotiation, or will that simly be your opportunity to complain about Union workers?

Is there a single news story you don't have something to whine about, ever? That's what internet trolls do. How about being part of the solution rather than being a persistent complainer, never offering a reasonable suggestion?

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bj84711 3 months, 1 week ago

Obviously your a union member. Raising taxes just to give it out as wages is crazy in this economy. Must be nice not to struggle like the rest of us.

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downhillracer 3 months ago

Obviously you make foolish assumptions without benefit of facts. I work in the private sector, and also support many of the efforts of Unions.

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adpomraning 3 months, 1 week ago

Friends; I am listening.

A few facts. 1. The city manager is in the middle of the pack for comparable cities for pay regionally. 2. The city attorney is well below the average pay for regional city attorneys. 3. Thier excellent performance in 2013 is well documented in the Union Bulletin.

Allen Pomraning, the new Walla Walla City Council Member

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namvet60 3 months ago

Thank you Mr Pomraning for listening. My rebuttal is that the Senior Social Security Cola was 1.5% and the private sector saw very little movement in increases in wages. When you state that these city employees are paid according to regional wages is not a way to gauge the economy of the area. Giving a raise of up to 8% is not befitting of the private sector and that these particular persons are the only capable employees available. I'm not saying they are not capable but are they so great that they reap the harvest while the rest suffer?

I'm also referring to other larger cities that are suffering the same or worse economic problems that are facing bankrupty

Just my opinion - have a great day..

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oldguyonabike 3 months, 1 week ago

Mostly a male dominated leadership of the city. It would be interesting to see sex based salary data. Sadly, the only female leadership role is at the library. The library that should be merged into the RLD that has the ability to do inter-library loans.

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adpomraning 3 months, 1 week ago

Friends; Again, I am listening... City staff are trying hard to find highly qualified candidates for the city position of Director of Human Resources. If you know of a highly qualified candidate, please inform them of this city of Walla Walla opportunity. Allen Pomraning, Walla Walla City Council.

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clarkfamily89 3 months ago

I personally think that what each of those people make is not necessary to publish in the Union Bulletin. I understand it is public record and I guess it should be public record. However, they applied for those jobs and they are administrative positions which are looked at by their peers. They are apparently doing a good job and thus retain their positions and receive raises for their efforts. Why is it ok for professional athletes to get absurd amounts of money to play a sport and administrators not to make monies much less that a professional athlete and they have gotten the education they have to hold these jobs. I am not an administrator but assist one in my position at my employment and I can attest they work hard for what they get. When others go home at the end of the day they may be home but they are working. On weekends the same. Leave them alone.

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mspinks 3 months ago

Professional athletes are not paid with tax payer dollars. Apples and oranges....

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clarkfamily89 3 months ago

Not really. A lot of folks are paid by tax dollar money and they get big salaries. It's just that not all of us have our salaries published in the Union Bulletin.

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mspinks 3 months ago

You don't have to spend your hard earned dollars on sporting events, but you do have to pay taxes. And when times are tough and tax dollars are spread thin paying for county/city services, it shows fiscal irresponsibility to add to salaries. Especially when the employees are already well paid. As far as salaries being published, that goes with the territory when working for public entities. Private companies don't have to provide that information.

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downhillracer 3 months ago

You don't think tax dollars aren't used for construction and operation of major sports venues? The higest paid state employees are the coaching staff of college and university football.

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peaches 3 months ago

Is this a contributing factor to the fact that kids can't afford college? I think so..

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namvet60 3 months ago

I did not realize that college and university football entities carried a professional status. How this world has changed?

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namvet60 3 months ago

The previous comments were in regards to professional sports players and college and university players and coaches did not come into the issue!

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downhillracer 3 months ago

I know it's hard to keep up. The original commentary is focused on pay for city officials, and the discussion broadened to include pay for sporting-related employees. State run sports, and their employees at the top are amongst the highest paid in the entire food-chain. That would be your tax dollars. The original complaint is about your tax dollars. Sheesh.

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namvet60 3 months ago

In re-reading the comments your the only one that brought college and university sports into the issue. With your comment of "I know it's hard to keep up" - just can't get away from the ignorance can you?

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downhillracer 3 months ago

You're right - every time I read one of your gadfly missives, I'm reunited with unabated, willful ignorance. The overall discussion is taxpayer funded pay, correct? While you're whining about city employee pay (tax payer funded), I raised the question if this concern also applies to state-level sporting program employee pay, also tax payer funded. Kapish?

Context means everything.

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namvet60 3 months ago

"Context means everything."

Re-read your comment and then read this opening sentence.

"whining about city employee pay (tax payer funded)," was the discussion and you throw in your own little commentary to whose benefit?

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downhillracer 3 months ago

It's called an informed discussion. You are oblivious and really not worth the time.

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namvet60 3 months ago

barracuda had you pegged as a mosquito but I think that was the wrong term. I would say its closer to a peeping tom - always shadowing certain posters.

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MyFamNews 3 months ago

namvet; You, sir are what is known as a Troll. Google for the meaning of Internet or Blog Troll.

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namvet60 3 months ago

The same could be said of yourself - it's obvious that you pick out my comments but do not read the comments causing my rebuttal and discontent. Thank You very much and have a nice day!

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peaches 3 months ago

I think that it should be obvious that more than a few people are being overpaid with OUR money as we are being taxed into the POOR HOUSE!!! Isn't it grand that thier kids will be able to afford an education at the expense of our own childrens??

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Bigdog 2 months, 4 weeks ago

“Shawa will start on Oct. 19, 2009. He will fill a vacancy left by Duane Cole, who resigned in April. Shawa will receive $140,000 per year, roughly $30,000 more than Cole, who earned just under $110,000 per year”. OK… so from the start Shawa was given 30k more than the previous city manager – not a bad hike? With the current job market then and now, there are many applicants that would be happy to take the position at 110k. Poor decision making in the whole hiring of Shawa. Since 2009 when Shawa started, his salary has escalated up to an increase to a new salary of plus $147k – a 7k increase in roughly 4 years. I know of no private sector job that has made those kinds of gains. In fact, the trend has been towards pay freezes, reductions, and a compromise in benefit packages. Mind you, with a salary that already started out at 30k more than it ever should have. Do the math. As far as Donaldson, he has already turned down increases twice. What a man of ethics and integrity. He deserves his increase for that reason and for what he has invested in his educational background and skills. As far as Shawa doing a great job, I am not so sure. He has done more to damage the goodwill in this community than any manager I have ever seen. Showing up at dawn to oversee the Octopus removal was a personal vendetta I will not soon forget. He needs replaced!

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