DeKalb City Council OKs 2 percent pay raises for employees

DeKALB – DeKalb aldermen signed off on a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees at their Monday night meeting, but some of those employees might see a higher increase for this year.

In addition to a cost-of-living adjustment, certain management staff also could be getting another pay raise based on merit. Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu said this step-raise program is separate from the COLAs the aldermen voted on.

Every nonunion city employee is a part of a multitiered program that sees them getting a pay raise if they have met their goals as determined by their supervisor. In the first year, they see a 16 percent pay increase; after that, it’s a 2 percent increase up to their 12th year. After that, the only raise city employees see is through COLA.

The merit-based pay plan has been in place since 2004, but Monday was the first time it factored into the arguments of the aldermen over the financial health of the city.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson was the lone dissenter in the 6-1 vote on the 2 percent cost of living adjustment. He felt the city was not out of financial danger.

“We’re outpacing our revenues continually,” Jacobson said. “We keep doing it. ... If we’re going to say public safety is our priority, to continue to give raises elsewhere will prevent you from doing that.”

Fifth Ward Alderman Ronald Naylor supported the increase. To him, budgeting for increases and then walking back on them was not the way to treat employees.

“Employees have served here under this program since it’s been adopted. They’ve been expecting it, anticipating it, budgeted for it,” Naylor said, noting that these discussions came up after the budget was passed. “I don’t think that’s a good way to treat your professional employees.”

Espiritu said both kinds of pay increases – merit-based and COLA – are accounted for in the fiscal 2014 budget. Taken together, they are worth $122,669. Espiritu said the merit increases are not automatic, and that about half of the employees have graduated out of it.

City Clerk Liz Peerboom, an elected official as well as a former DeKalb employee, expressed support for the 2 percent increase for the city’s management staff.

“If we lost many of them, we would be in big trouble,” Peerboom said.

Both Espiritu and individual council members agreed to take steps to draft a new compensation plan. Espiritu said they will contact certain firms about getting help in creating such a plan.

Jacobson also was the sole dissenter in approving a pay increase for City Attorney Dean Frieders.

Frieders initially was denied a pay increase at their previous meeting. Under the new increase, the city will pay Frieders Law $17,340 a month – or $208,080 a year – for the firm’s legal services.

AT A GLANCE: City finances in fiscal 2014

How much more the city will spend on COLA: $60,818

How much more the city will spend on merit-based pay increases: $61,851

How much more the city will spend on pay increases, health insurance, insurance contributions, workman's comp, and pensions: $139,039

How much the city will spend in all of its funds: $77.4 million

How much the city will spend of its general fund: $30 million

How much the city has left in its general fund reserves: $5.6 million