City Doles Out Pay Raises To Select Employees
Friday, July 22, 2011
The city of Providence dished out over $35,000 in raises to several city employees –including three director-level positions – for the new fiscal year despite Mayor Taveras’ call for shared sacrifice in every city department.
The raises, which went to workers in the Arts, Culture and Tourism, Parks & Recreation and Public Works departments, were justified because in every case, the employees took on additional responsibilities, according to City spokesman David Ortiz.
“Five employees out of about 2000 received salary increases,” Ortiz said. “In each case, this is an employee who moved up to a new position or assumed extra duties as a result of layoffs or unfilled positions.”
Who Got Raises?
The three directors receiving pay increases were Public Works Director Paul Thomas, whose nearly $4,000 raise will put him over $100,000 for 2011; Director of Neighborhood Park Services and Recreation Elizabeth Charlebois, whose $5,545.42 raise puts her above the $84,000 mark for the year; and Stephanie Fortunato, whose pay increased by almost $10,000 when she was promoted to Deputy Director of Arts, Culture + Tourism.
Fortunato and Janine Schwartz, who received an $11,000 pay increase to become Cultural Affairs and Film Manager, are new positions, according to Ortiz. The city did not respond to questions regarding whether the new jobs were posted for the public to apply for.
The other pay increase of $5,715.44 raise went to Karen Gomes, the city’s fiscal manager for Parks and Recreation, who took over fiscal operations for the Recreation Department, Ortiz said.
Surprised By Raises
Despite the city’s explanation on the raises, some City Council members said they were surprised to hear that anyone was receiving a pay increase at a time when so many departments and unions have been asked to make concessions while taking on more responsibility.
"I was told by the administration that no one would receive pay raises this year," Councilman Miguel Luna said. "I'm surprised by this because I know people that have been working for six and seven years and have not gotten a raise."
First-term Councilman Davian Sanchez said he wasn’t aware of any employees receiving a pay increases either. He said he is against the decision.
“This is also the first I've heard about it and if no one in the city is getting a raise neither should they,” Sanchez wrote in an e-mail Thursday evening.
Councilman: I Wasn’t Okay With All Of Them
Although the administration could not confirm how many positions were lost or left unfilled in the three departments, it maintained that savings were still realized despite the pay raises. That was okay with Deputy Majority Leader Nick Narducci, who said he was of raises going to employees that were taking on additional work.
But without getting into specifics, Narducci said he didn’t support every raise handed out by the city.
“If you look at it, they consolidated a lot of positions,” Narducci said. “But they are raises and I wasn’t okay with all of them.”
In a statement to GoLocalProv, Council President Michael Solomon did not elaborate on the decision to give raises to a select group of employees, but said, “These personnel decisions are part and parcel to the substantial restructuring and reorganization of the city's municipal government in this budget.”
Pay Cuts, Freezes In Other Areas
While the city made the exception for the five raises, it stood by its position to enforce cuts in most departments and to ask for concessions from the major unions.
In March, citing a need for immediate action, Taveras took a ten percent pay cut himself and pledged to place a freeze on all non-essential spending and hiring.
In each of its negotiations with the major city unions, the Taveras administration also asked for either pay cuts or pay freezes. Local 1033, the city’s largest union, took a pay cut, cut their longevity pay and increased their health insurance co-pays. The Police union agreed to not take raises for another six years after going nearly a decade without a pay increase. The Fire union agreed to forego its three percent raise that was scheduled to take effect this month as well.
Budget Is $25 Million Less Than last Year
Because of the Mayor and the Council were able to agree on millions of dollars in savings in the budget, Councilman David Salvatore said he was aware that some employees would receive raises to make up for their increased workload.
“While the Mayor instituted a pay freeze, there were a handful of raises as part of the proposed budget and consolidation of jobs,” Salvatore said. “This Council took its duties to protect taxpayers very seriously and negotiated additional line item cuts. Additionally, we came up with a spending plan that is $25 million less than last year’s and contains over $2 million in line item deductions, while eliminating the funding for ten positions and instituting non-union furlough days.”
Salvatore said the focus now is hold departments accountable.
“We have a process in place now to review the budget on a monthly and quarterly basis and make corrections quickly in order to hold city departments accountable for their spending,” he said. “This is going to make a big difference in terms of holding a line on spending and avoiding surprises in the budget.”
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