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If only Roanoke City Council had talked about raises within the context of the budget, the issue could rest in peace.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Roanoke City Council members cannot seem to extricate themselves from the pay-raise trap they stepped in. If only they could crank up the way-back machine and travel to this past winter — December, January, February or even March — and talk about their salary in the context of the city budget. Then, they could have dispensed with the matter transparently and with little fuss or notice.
By now, the summer BBQ talk would have moved on to discussions of whether the weather is steamy enough for July. Instead, it’s stuck on the boiling cauldron of controversy where council continues to steep. It’ll be at least two more weeks before the hot topic of pay raises comes off council’s agenda.
The shame of it all is that this particular group of city council members has prided itself on operating in an open, transparent and deliberative manner. Its adoption of the budgeting for outcomes process that draws in city staff, outside agencies and taxpayers to define what services and amenities Roanoke expects to deliver has been transformative. Taxpayers might not agree with everything in the plan, but at least they know why it’s in there.
Not so with the council pay raises. It wasn’t until the budget was nearly finished when the topic first came up as an afterthought by the mayor. Then a month later, once the financial plan was ready for adoption and after the public hearing, the push came by a four-member majority to increase the pay by an unbelievable 28.5 percent.
Since the first of two required votes, the majority faction broke apart, with some of its members finally understanding why the public would find fault with such a pay grab and its timing. A new majority led by Councilman Dave Trinkle desires to raise the salaries by 10 percent; of that, 8 percent would cover the reduction in net pay that will occur next July with increased contributions to health and pension plans, and 2 percent would boost council pay by the same percentage as city workers.
It is not an unreasonable bump in pay, and one that might have gained a unanimous vote on council and widespread support by the public if only it had been introduced during the budgeting process.
Mayor David Bowers and council members Bill Bestpitch and Anita Price remain in the majority seeking raises, but they lost Councilman Sherman Lea’s support. Lea is OK with keeping the pay neutral but won’t endorse the extra 2 percent. And Councilmen Court Rosen and Ray Ferris would rather it all just went away.
Would that it could.
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