Money is tight, but it’s not too tight to give some city employees higher salaries.
For the second time this year, Mayor Gary McCarthy is shifting employees to different work assignments and paying them more for the new jobs.
The question is whether those new assignments constitute a promotion, which would come with a higher salary, or simply a different assignment, which should not come with a raise because city officials said they couldn’t afford to give anyone raises this year.
Councilman Vince Riggi said Monday that the mayor was misusing the system to give out raises to certain workers.
But the other members of the council, who are all Democrats, backed the mayor’s proposal, saying that they need a stronger information technology department.
McCarthy wanted to increase one IT worker’s salary by $10,000 to $77,500, while eliminating the salary for the director of communications, a position that was vacated when the director retired last month. There would be enough money left over to fill a vacant IT position, hire a third worker and still save the city $40,000 next year.
Finance Commissioner Deborah DeGenova said the changes would create a “more robust” IT department.
McCarthy wants to bring more city services online, including regular reports on departments, numbers of arrests, building permits issued and money spent.
He also wants to create internal programs that allow departments to share information, particularly so that the Fire Department knows what the code inspectors know about buildings that are on fire.
Council members said they were convinced those efforts needed a better IT department.
But Riggi said McCarthy was just “reappropriating the money and moving it around.”
He said the IT department should be told to accomplish its tasks without higher salaries. He also questioned the proposed $9,000 raise for the new assessor, which the council did not discuss at its meeting Monday.
“He may be well worth that [salary], but we’re asking everyone else to do more with less. It’s only fair to ask everyone to do more with less,” Riggi said, adding that some employees had been laid off Jan. 1 because the city couldn’t afford to pay them.
In the wake of those layoffs, he said, the city could not offer raises to others.
In February, McCarthy also increased salaries for several employees by moving them to different positions. Councilman Carl Erikson said that wasn’t fair, particularly since the council had told other employees they couldn’t have raises.
“That is a significant increase most people wouldn’t see in getting a promotion or taking new responsibilities, especially in a tough economy,” he said.
But this time, he voted in favor of the increases.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said the changes made sense because the city needs more IT workers.
“I think this is an excellent solution to move the city forward with some very, very well-needed skills,” she said. “I’m proud of this solution.”