Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

As City Suffers in Recession, City Employees' Pay Does Not

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

As City Suffers in Recession, City Employees' Pay Does Not

Article excerpt

Byline: Chuck Hall

As you have probably noticed, either through the local news or just from walking around at night, the city is in the stages of letting 400 street lights go dark. Four hundred. For Pete's sake, I did not even realize there were that many street lights in our little town.

Around my house that's across from a school, and near a busy port facility, they have cut off several lights. What confuses me, however, is that they increased the wattage of two lights on the corner of Calhoun and Third streets, right across from each other. Maybe that is a special corner.

I suppose the issue is money. That and a tight economy. City officials want to reduce services, but keep our taxes and fees at current levels so they can support the system.

Here is a novel approach: study employee furloughs, for both hourly and salaried.

Yes, we get the talk that they are cutting services to save money, and I actually like to hear that. No problem; I can live without the lights every 100 feet.

However, what occurs to me is they are willing to cut citizens' benefits, but not the pay and benefits of their employees. Some think that under current conditions, they have not done enough.

We have really suffered lately as taxpayers and citizens in the worst economy since the Great Depression. We have watched our jobs disappear as our portfolios have been cut in half or worse. Our incomes have dwindled and our families have been torn apart. Unemployment is up to 11 percent here, and if you factor in those that are underemployed, self-employed by force, and those working part time out of necessity, you will find that our rates are well over 20 percent. More than 20 percent of our population here has been forced to make life-changing employment moves due to this vicious recession.

Yet our city continues along as though it is business as usual. Yes, there have been some cutbacks, but that happens in a normal economy, doesn't it?

The city has been very careful to protect the wages of their employees. But what about us? Who has come to our defense?

Let me introduce you to some math that might be alarming to you. If all 300 of our city employees were furloughed for just a few days per year without wages and benefits, the approximate results would be:

1. 300 employees times $35 per hour wages and benefits average about $10,500 per hour.

2. $10,500 for an eight-hour day would equal $84,000 per work day.

3. Four furlough days per year would be $336,000 yearly savings for taxpayers.

4. Six furlough days per year would be $504,000 yearly savings for taxpayers.

Now, I know that city employees will say these stats are not correct. Maybe not exactly, but very close. My point is that as taxpayers, we should ask that our city be more concerned with our money and our benefits rather than the comfort of their staff. …

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