PORT ANGELES — The City Council has approved a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for management and other non-represented workers, matching the same raises authorized for Teamsters union employees.
Council members voted 7-0 Tuesday to adopt changes to the salary scale and to restructure the Public Works and Utilities and Finance departments.
The action will achieve a net savings of $55,900 in 2019. The pay raises will take effect Jan. 1.
The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for non-represented employees will result in an additional cost of $25,300, City Manager Nathan West said in a memo.
The reorganization of the Public Works and Utilities Department will save $72,800 annually and the reorganization in the accounting division of the Finance Department will save $8,400.
“I’m happy to see the changes,” City Council member Cherie Kidd said at the meeting.
“The reorganization is well thought out, extremely efficient and I appreciate that we can take advantage of this now and put it into place.
“I’ve heard comments over the years of improper balance in management issues,” added Kidd, a third-term council member and former mayor.
“I believe that this has been thoroughly vetted by staff, and they’re bringing us a much better organizational chart.”
The city has been negotiating with its five employee unions on new contracts since late last year.
On May 21, the city settled with the Teamsters Sworn Officers Unit and Teamsters Communication and Support Unit.
The 2.5 percent COLAs were included in the new contracts.
“The city continues to negotiate with the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) and IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) unions and believes an agreement will be reached soon with each of these groups,” West said in a Tuesday memo.
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said cost-of-living adjustments are meant for inflation.
“But when we talk about salaries that are six-digit salaries, and we’re just adding 2.5 percent, that’s not actually a cost-of-living,” Schromen-Wawrin said before voting to approve the resolution.
“Cost-of-living might be the first $50,000 of that, maybe it’s the first $75,000 of that, but it’s not the entire thing.
“So as we go forward, we should be careful about what we call this,” Schromen-Wawrin added.
“I think it’s disingenuous to call the entire thing in the way we’ve done it a cost-of-living increase.”
West, the city’s chief executive, is the highest-paid employee with a $145,000 starting salary.
The city has the equivalent of about 250 full-time workers.
Council member Mike French said the city could not keep its employees if it eschewed COLAs.
“Really what this is,” French said, “this is a cost of being competitive adjustment.”
“No. 1, we need to treat our staff fairly,” French said.
“In accordance with how we’ve negotiated with our unions, I think we should treat our non-representeds fairly in that.
“But also, if we are not competitive in how our salaries are being done, we will lose staff,” French added.
“We’ve had significant turnover, and we don’t want to see that continue.”
Schromen-Wawrin said the city has had trouble filling certain positions despite competitive salaries.
“I think the larger issue here is that the problem isn’t that city staff salaries are too high,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“It’s that there’s too much precarity for other sectors of the economy, and positions that used to be genuinely middle class positions are now seen as more affluent positions in our society in general.
“So I guess my thought is how do we rectify that larger macroeconomic condition, not so much how do we solve that within these sorts of decisions that we’re about to vote on,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].