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Pay increases during Glendale's wage freeze

City's pay system means some employee salaries continue to rise.

May 04, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
(Steve Greenberg…)

It's a common refrain at City Hall: Employee raises have been frozen since 2009 due to austere budget conditions.

But that doesn't necessarily mean city employees haven't been making more money.

In 2012, roughly three-quarters of the top 45 salary-earners made more than they did the year before, even though the vast majority did not receive promotions, city records show.

The employee who had the greatest pay increase without a promotion made $33,303 more in 2012 than the year prior.

The difference in pay comes, in general, from a variety of factors, including overtime and guaranteed annual boosts known as "step increases." Promotions also played a role for those that took on higher-ranking jobs.

Of the $15.4-million budget gap the city closed last year, $1.4 million was attributed to step increases.

Forward-looking public agencies are weighing the cost of these guaranteed benefits that have been in place for decades, but may not be the best fit for modern times, said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

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"Before, no one really wanted to look out and have that discussion. Maybe now is the exact opportune time," Ochoa said. "The old way of thinking is completely gone."

But forging a new civil compensation system will be a rough road, said Larry Rosenthal, a Chapman University law professor with expertise in local government law.

"Like almost everything in public policy, it's complicated," Rosenthal said.

Most of the top 45 earners last year were fire and police officials who benefited from overtime as they filled in for sick workers or aided other agencies that needed help.

When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, several Glendale firefighters went to New Jersey, but overtime pay for mutual aid work is reimbursed by state and federal funds, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

In addition to freezing across-the-board raises, Glendale stopped doling out merit-based bonuses in 2009. The year before, the bonuses — dispersed to about 40 employees — cost the city about $228,400, according to city documents.

Firefighters are set to get a 2.5% across-the-board wage increase next fiscal year — although that's less than the 4.5% boost that had originally been scheduled after an agreement was reached with City Hall.

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