Are you in line for a 29 percent pay raise this year? Or maybe one of 15-19 percent?
If you are, you clearly rank among the smallest minorities in today's economic environment and job market. In fact, it likely means you fall into perhaps a handful of work categories: You must be either a professional athlete, a top-shelf name in the entertainment industry — or, we now know, a city of Gloucester department head.
The difference, of course, is that few can or are willing to rein in the runaway costs for ticket-buying consumers in the first two fields — but the Gloucester City Council had better do something about the third.
Indeed, the idea of giving a 29-percent raise to any municipal employee when union agreements — negotiated in part by that same person — are delivering annual raises of 1-2 percent is not only an affront to the taxpayers who have to pay the bills, but a blatant slap in the face to other city workers who have had to share in the sacrifice of helping to stabilize the city's fiscal picture over the last four years under Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
Those and other pay hikes are part of Mayor Kirk's proposed budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1. In all, the budget is pegged to rise by about 3 percent — a figure that is roughly in line with the rate of inflation and cost of living increases.
But the idea of steering more taxpayer dollars into clearly excessive pay hikes for the mayor's department heads shows a frightening lack of prioritizing for a city that, lest we forget, still cannot, among other things, find a means of opening two of its four fire stations to provide the expected level of public safety, especially in Gloucester's northern villages of Annisquam, Bay View and Lanesville.
There is, of course, a context to some of the pay hikes, which are real rooted in a salary reclassification or restructuring that gained City Council approval in March. At that time, the council backed the idea of raising the salary parameters for several key department heads, notably boosting the police and fire chief positions from a range of $83,091-$98,310 to one of $100,302-$118,572. Similarly, the range for the city's chief administrative officer was lifted from a range of $74,194-$87,769 to one of between $91,806 and $108,578.
There is some justification for hiking the salaries of the fire and police chiefs — with both positions essentially open, and with the city trying to attract more qualified outside candidates. And one can even make a case for boosting the range of the City Hall chief administrative job.
But Kirk's budget doesn't simply boost Chief Administrative Officer Jim Duggan's pay by the 4.6 percent he would have earned just by staying on the job under the new pay range. It bumps Duggan's proposed fiscal 2013 pay from his current $81,184 to $104,715 — a whopping 29 percent increase.
Duggan, of course, is not the only beneficiary of this sudden sharing of the city's wealth among Kirk administration appointees. Kirk's budget would also raise Building Inspector Bill Sanborn's pay from $66,645 to $79,900 — a jump of 19 percent — while City Solicitor Suzanne Egan would also get a 18 percent boost, from $87,481 to $103,171, well into the new and improved salary range of $91,806 to $108,578.
City Councilor Paul McGeary, who chairs the council's Budget and Finance Committee, says the projected department head raises average — average — around 14 percent. And he noted that many are high on the new scale of pay ranges.
To his credit, he promised that the mayor's budget with these salary hikes will face significant scrutiny in the subcommittee.
"It's not going to sail through," he said.
Sail through? This insult to Gloucester's municipal employees and taxpayers should face a full council blockade.