Why am I once again proposing to Council additional pay for City employees?
They Have Earned it
First, because they have earned it. Since the arrival of the pandemic in March of last year, municipal employees have shown up and gotten the City’s business done, without missing a beat. Essentially, nothing gets done in the City without the dedicated folks that show up each and every day. Without them, the trash does not get picked up and disposed of safely; snow does not get removed from the streets; parks don’t get mowed; libraries don’t open; 911 calls aren’t answered; police cars, fire trucks and ambulances aren’t dispatched; safety inspections aren’t conducted; and on and on. Not once during these past many months have these dedicated employees missed delivering essential services in our community!
We Must Remain Competitive
Second, because we must. The job market has become very competitive and, as noted above, we are a people-based organization. We need 1,700 people to do what it is we must do. As has been recently highlighted with vacancies in our Police Department, the consequences of not having the folks we need can be troubling, to say the least. That is as true for firefighters, accountants, sanitation workers, and engineers as it is for police officers. While we may not always successfully compete with private sector employers or even, at times, other public sector employers, we must do what we can to remain competitive.
We Have the Means at This Time
Third, because we can. Due to tight expenditure controls over the last two budget cycles, tax revenues exceeding projections, and unprecedented state and federal financial assistance, we are in the best position we have been in years to address this critical need.
So, what am I proposing? Previously, we have been able, with Council’s assistance, to provide a cost of living adjustment for all employees, implement Phase One of the first-ever step pay plan for public safety employees, and a series of one-time bonuses. Additionally, we have embarked upon an assessment of the competitiveness of our compensation, which will inform the development of the FY23 budget. What I am proposing in the interim is another series of one-time bonuses: $1,500 for firefighters, police officers, and 911 dispatchers who remain employed with us for at least the next six months; $1,000 for all full-time non-public safety employees ($500 for part-time); a recruitment bonus of up to $5,000 for those agreeing to become a new police officer (this is on top of the previously approved $7,000 for police officers from other jurisdictions willing to join our force); and an organization-wide minimum wage of $15 per hour beginning in January, so that no one working for the City of Roanoke will be paid less than $15 per hour—part-time, full-time, temporary, or seasonal.
Of course, not everything is about money. In addition to these compensation increases, we continue to better the work environment and conditions for our employees, offering better facilities and equipment for them to deliver their services, expanded benefits, professional training and development, advancement opportunities, increased inclusion, access to a strong pension, and more.
For more than 135 years we have been providing the essential services demanded by the community. Continued investment in the people who make that possible will ensure the Star City continues to shine brightly.
-- Bob Cowell