Phoenix: Too Broke To Hire Police Officers
Phoenix is broke, yet city manager gets a 22% pay raise?
Laurie Roberts, The Republic | azcentral.com – April 7, 2014
Forget all that doom and gloom you’re hearing about poor Phoenix and its budget woes, all that talk about closing senior centers and pools.
Happy days, it seems, are here again in the city of Phoenix.
I know this because last week city leaders were able to ease the suffering of one of their own, raising him up from a dreary life of bare subsistence, filling his tin cup full up to the brim.
That’s right, the City Council gave City Manager Ed Zuercher a 22 percent pay raise, retroactive to Feb. 19 when the “interim” label came off his job title.
Zuercher’s base pay was boosted to $315,000, which he points out is basically minimum wage.
It’s also a $56,061 raise and that doesn’t include the resulting $5,582 jump in his deferred compensation, the city’s second retirement plan for managers. Meanwhile, the median annual household income in Phoenix is $47,866, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
City leaders justified Zuercher’s raise, talking about the need to be competitive and to attract and retain top talent and the same old blah blah blah-bady blah we always hear when they want to confer an astonishing amount of taxpayer cash onto city executives.
Never mind that the last $315,000-a-year top talent bolted within months of snagging a 33 percent raise – using that windfall to spike his pension even as he convinced another sucker city to match his insane salary.
Apparently, once burned leads to twice scorched because the council voted 6-3 to approve Zuercher’s raise.
“What do you think that CEO makes in the private sector?” asked Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who joined Mayor Greg Stanton, Michael Nowakowski, Thelda Williams, Laura Pastor and Kate Gallego in handing over the dough. “This is a fair contract, given the climate.”
Fair, in a city that’s too broke to hire police officers.
Fair, in a city where employees haven’t seen their pay and benefits fully restored after taking a cut a couple of years ago.
Fair, in a city that’s $37.7 million in the hole, thanks to rising pension and health-insurance costs and bungled revenue projections supplied by all that top talent over there in city hall.
Fair, in a city where this week executives will fan out to explain why kids will have no place to swim this summer and the elderly and disabled will have no place to go.
Zuercher’s proposed budget calls for closing three senior centers, three pools, seven recreation centers, 13 community centers and two neighborhood centers that offer summer programs for kids. He wants to reduce fire code inspections, graffiti removal and neighborhood code enforcement.
Times, after all, are tough.
Indeed, city leaders point out that Zuercher didn’t get as sweet a deal as his predecessor, David Cavazos. He can’t spike his pension, won’t score an annual $4,000 “longevity” bonus and can cash in just 20 percent of his unused vacation and sick leave when he retires, compared with Cavazos’ 60 percent.
Plus, he’ll have to contribute 5 percent of his pay toward his pension while Cavazos paid only 2 percent.
And yet, Zuercher still will be awash in cash — with a $315,000 salary, a $5,220 car allowance, a $1,200 cellphone allowance and $30,240 in deferred compensation — at a time when the city has none.
Hey, at least, somebody in Phoenix will be swimming this summer.
(Column published April 7, 2014, The Arizona Republic.)