Somerton workers to get 5+ percent raises
SOMERTON — Municipal employees here will get pay raises of 5 percent or more in the fiscal year that started this month, in what City Hall hopes will be an incentive to keep them from looking for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
While each employee will get at least 5 percent, some may get more, depending on their seniority and their job performance.
Among other things, the city hopes to prevent employees from seeking comparable, higher-paying jobs with the city of Yuma, said City Administrator Bill Lee.
The pay raise was approved by majority vote of the Somerton City Council as part of its recent adoption of city budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that started July 1. Two council members, Arturo Magana and Miguel Villapando, voted against an average 5 percent hike, saying the council should be more conservative even if revenue projections indicate the city will be able to afford to pay the raises.
“I think this is a plan that is too risky,” Magana said. “I'm not against us paying the employees more, but it could end up that revenues don't come in like they are expected to.”
For his part, Villapando said he doesn't consider the pay plan to be equitable. He also shared Magana's concerns that given the economy, the city might not receive the projected revenues it would need to pay the raises.
“We're still not out of the tough economic difficulty that we've been for the past several years,” Villapando said.
The raises for about 100 employes will cost nearly $400,000 to be paid out of the city's general and enterprise funds.
Lee said the city will have the money to pay the raises, due in part to a projected increase in Somerton's portion of state-shared revenues in 2012-13.
He added that city is in a financial position to pay the raises, thanks to cost-cutting measures previously put in place, such as a citywide recycling program that has cut trash collection costs, the use of solar power at city buildings and a two-year employee furlough program that has since ended.
“Since 2009, pay has not been increased,” Lee said, adding that he knows of no other cities that have placed employees on a furlough program as long as Somerton.
“City employees have shared the sacrifice in tough times. We believe that is fair that they also share the benefits when the situation has improved.”
Mayor Martin Porchas said city officials have been discussing employee compensation since the middle of the past fiscal year.
“I believe that has been plenty of time to analyze everything, and we were already anticipating that revenues were going to be better this year.
“The money is there” for the raises, Porchas added. “We are not going to have to go find it.”
Porchas conceded the possibility that a new economic downturn in the future could cost the city the revenue it expects to receive. But it would be more costly to the city to lose employees to better-paying jobs elsewhere.
“They are employees who cost us to recruit and train them. We don't want to be like a center where they come for training to go to work for other cities.”
The raise is part of a $23 million budget for fiscal 2012-13 that is due for final approval Tuesday by the council. The total budget is about $1 million less than last year's.