Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Austin's municipal bureaucrats' throw a TANTRUM over modest savings proposals

"A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back."
Proverbs 29:11

During the ongoing Austin City Council budget process, Mayor Steve Adler (D - Citywide) and Council members Don Zimmerman (R - Northwest Austin) and Ellen Troxclair (R - Southwest Austin) have proposed modestly reigning in benefit and wage growth for municipal employees.  At press time, it's unclear which proposals have the votes to pass.  Nonetheless, the (butthurt) inability to withstand mild criticism expressed by City Manager Marc Ott is a sight to behold:
In a memo sent Aug. 31, City Manager Marc Ott let Mayor Steve Adler and Council members know the changes and proposed budget reductions had taken their toll, and morale is suffering.

“I’m hearing that many employees are understandably feeling ‘under attack,’” wrote Ott. “I can attest to the sentiment that many of the concept menu items have been ‘deflating’ to say the least to our employees. I will also say that in my tenure here, this level of response by employees is unprecedented.

“The very employees that have been striving to support the new 10-1 system, especially the Department Heads and their executive teams, have said that they are feeling undervalued and unappreciated from several of the budget concept menu items. For example, several concept menu items focus on reducing employees’ benefits, reducing recommended salary increases, increasing employee insurance costs for some more than others, and even terminating almost 100 employees,” wrote Ott.


Today, Council will tackle its budget concept menu in earnest. Among the suggestions for cost-savings are a tiered raise structure that would award the highest raises to the lowest-paid workers and offer no increase to the highest-paid employees. Though that proposal does not appear to have the majority of Council support, it was sponsored by Council Members Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair, Ora Houston and Sheri Gallo. Adler has proposed an alternative, which would implement a 1.5 percent structured pay increase in lieu of the recommended 3 percent raise.

Also up for debate are proposals to restructure employee health insurance premiums; cap merit bonus pay; reduce the city’s employer pension contribution from 18 percent to 15 percent for the Employee Retirement System; eliminate the executive health benefit that provides $500 per year in ancillary executive compensation; and reduce General Fund, Enterprise Fund and support services budgets by 20 percent for travel, training, mileage reimbursement, printing, binding, food and beverages, subscriptions, memberships, hardware, software, minor equipment and supplies.


Ott’s memo also included messages of support for Hensley’s letter from 22 city department heads.

City Clerk Jannette Goodall, Officer of Real Estate Services Lauraine Rizer, Department of Public Works Director Howard Lazarus, Animal Services Chief Officer Tawny Hammond, interim City Attorney Anne Morgan, Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, Austin-Travis County EMS Director and Chief Ernie Rodriguez, Fleet Services Department Director Gerry Calk, Director of Libraries Brenda Branch, Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert, Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros, Planning and Zoning Department Director Greg Guernsey, court administrator Peter Valdez, Economic Development Department Director Kevin Johns, Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar, Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Officer Rondella Hawkins, Small and Minority Business Resources Director Veronica Lara, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Director Betsy Spencer, Austin Convention Center Director Mark Tester, Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Scott Swearengin and Capital Planning Officer Mike Trimble all emailed messages of support to Ott or thanked Hensley for her letter.
Read the whole thing here.

Beyond the modest proposals for this year, at least one third of the city departments listed above should be eliminated.

Bottom Line: If the new Austin City Council didn't have a real opportunity for meaningful governmental reform, the permanent bureaucracy wouldn't be acting in this manner.

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