When City Manager Anita Favors released her proposed budget last month for FY 2016, which includes a 27% increase in property taxes, her press release called the proposal a “public safety budget.”
The press release detailed the increase in positions for public safety and also mentioned the $500,000 allocated for street resurfacing.
However, one item she did not draw attention to was the $2.6 million allocated to a 3% pay raise for non-public safety related employees.
Research of past year budgets indicate that the City of Tallahassee has quietly approved pay raises for the last four years while other government entities have chosen to give pay raises less frequently over the same period.
As the debate over the proposed 2016 property tax begins to heat up, scrutiny of expenses has highlighted pay raises. But numbers are not easy to come by.
In fact, TR asked the City’s budget office for the total amount included in the 2016 budget for non-public safety pay raises and they said that they did not have that information.
Instead, they directed TR to the budget and described how to get the amount by locating and adding up 11 different numbers from different departments.
So TR added up the numbers for “salary enhancements” proposed for 2016 and came up with $2.683 million.
Then TR added up City expenditures for pay raises for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
The annual pay raise expenditures from 2012-2016 for City of Tallahassee general employees is shown in the chart below. Before 2012, in 2010 and 2011, no pay raises were given to City employees.
Non-public safety City employees received a 1% raise effective October 1, 2011 and an additional 1% effective March 1, 2012.
The pay raises increased to 2.5% in FY 2013, 2.5% in FY 2014, 2.5% in FY 2015 and now 3% has been proposed for FY 2016.
What is the impact of the City pay raises on the current budget debate and the proposed property tax increase?
It would appear that the $2.6 million salary enhancements proposed for 2016 has a direct impact on what revenue is needed to balance the budget, and therefore, impacts the level of property taxes.
Also, any pay raise has financial impacts beyond the year it was awarded.
For example, if the 2016 proposed $2.6 million in pay raises is approved, approximately $9.9 million in revenue will be required to pay for the cumulative effect of the general employee pay raises given since 2012.
What did other government entities do during this period?
Research indicates that Leon School Board employees did not get raises in 2012, but did get a 2% raise in 2013, no raise in 2014, and now are scheduled to get raises in 2015 and 2016.
At the time of the 2013 raise, Superintendent Pons told the Tallahassee Democrat, “We didn’t want to eliminate jobs in order to give pay increases. So, we made some tough decisions, but we all worked on it together, and we’ve gotten through this. We just appreciate what our employees have done for our school system.”
State government workers received pay raises in 2013 and before that, the last pay raise was a 3% increase in 2006.
TR is still waiting on information from Leon County government on their approved pay raises.
Several questions remain unanswered.
Why is the City not acknowledging the level and the impact of the pay raise policy implemented over the last four years on the current budget proposal?
Will any City Commissioners question the pay raises and their impact on the proposed budget before voting on the property tax increase?