Tuesday, December 27, 2011

City Managers Should Thank Struggling Taxpayers for Their Wage Increases

That our national economy remains strained in this “Great Recession” is evident almost everywhere we look. Private sector jobs remain hard to find and we see median wages falling or remaining low.

According to a chart released by Washington State, Clark County’s median wage dropped over $3,000 a year between 2008 and 2009. 2010 showed an estimated increase in median wages in the county of a paltry $200 per year with a further estimate for 2011 of just $400 for the year, hoping to see a median wage of $54,951, still $3,000 below what was seen in 2008.

Many in the county, who are lucky enough to still have a job, have seen no wage increase at all and some have actually seen a significant drop in wages while at the same time we see taxes, rates and fees increasing across the board from city and county government.

However, not all of us have to sacrifice during these dire economic times. The Columbian tells us in November, “131 OPEIU members will get a 1.5 percent raise next year and another in 2013, followed by a 2 percent wage increase in 2014” as the city and the union reached their contract agreement. A small increase, but an increase just the same.

Earlier we saw settlements in contract disputes that also granted slight increases to city public union workers with an agreement for many to begin paying for a small portion of their health insurance premiums.

Last December taxpayers expressed their opposition to our 3 county commissioners receiving a wage increase that they wisely chose not to accept.

With such slight increases, while median income remains $3,000 lower throughout the county, little wonder even the Columbian questioned city manager Eric Holmes receiving nearly double a wage increase as did other city employees who avoided being laid off during this recession.

The slight outrage they expressed last week seems to be gone today as they report City managers’ pay rises across county, informing readers, “Four out of five [city managers] in Camas, Washougal, B.G., Vancouver, will receive increases in 2012.”

Chart from the Columbian
As seen in the chart above, appointed city managers are doing quite well in this recession while many middle class taxpayers continue unemployed, underemployed or with stagnant wages. Each city manager earns at least twice the current median income of taxpayers in the county.

The Columbian quotes Mark Stephan, a political science professor at Washington State University Vancouver, “Awarding pay raises to public leaders is important because it lessens the chance of a more affluent city or private company poaching them and, symbolically, makes the employees feel more appreciated.”

Stephan also rightly notes struggling middle class taxpayers will not receive the news of appointed city employees receiving these increases very well.

How nice to also read these wage increases do not include cost of living allowances that remain frozen “in order to save money.”

It cannot be forgotten that the governor wishes to increase the sales tax and public unions and members of the Democrat controlled legislature have filed a lawsuit against citizen initiatives to keep a high threshold for them to impose new taxes on us.

Locally, we continue to see our voices ignored as supporters of C-Tran, who is also giving wage increases to public union members engage in fearmongering to win a sales tax increase and working on yet another sales tax increase in 2012.

The CRC continues to suck up tax dollars with little accountability and working to keep taxpayers from voting on how we may want the project to go.

A searchable online database reveals over 250 public salaries in Clark County in excess of $100,000. Of the 661 salaries listed, over 600 are above the median income in Clark County.

We should also remember that shortly after lying his way into the mayor’s seat, Tim ‘the liar’ Leavitt floated the notion of making the job full time, presumably also with a six-figure salary while bombastic council member, Jeanne ‘gavel down’ Harris supported making city council positions full time that I have to believe would carry generous salaries.

It matters not whether or not these city managers deserve wage increases. Struggling middle class workers also deserve much, but we are not receiving increases, other than in what we must pay out in taxes, rates and fees.

Considering too that elected federal officials also receive $174,000 in base wage, plus extremely generous benefits that we struggling middle class taxpayers fund, it appears that being a public “servant” pays much better than those they allegedly serve receive.

It would seem the main incentive any of them have is devising ways to keep us paying for their lifestyles.

I’d say how nice it would be to at least receive a nice Thank You card from our public servants, but that too would probably come out of our pockets.

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