Councilmember’s letter to editor: Time to rein in public employee labor costs

Publisher’s note: This letter was originally posted on March 28. It has been reposted to the home page because of the important nature of the topic.

To the editor:

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that public employee compensation grew by 28.6 percent, compared with 19.3 percent for private industry employees between 1998 and 2008.

As one of the few, if not only, members of the Edmonds City Council who has publicly declared I will will not vote to tax the people of Edmonds with a general property tax levy until after we negotiate new labor agreements, I understand what we need to do.

The people of Edmonds need to understand that recent budget projections show there is approximately a $9 million increase in projected costs over the next five years and only $4 million in projected additional revenues. That $4 million will cover additional general government operating expenses if labor costs remain constant. However, there is an additional $5 million increase in projected labor costs slated for the next five years. That’s a $5 million dollar hole for the projected 4.2 – 4.8 percent annual increase in labor cost.

Some council members like DJ Wilson repeatedly declare they are ready and willing to vote for a tax increase levy now and negotiate labor cost increases later. I say hold down those labor costs and negotiate labor contracts before even thinking about asking the people of Edmonds to tax themselves for a general fund property tax levy.

Michael Plunkett
Edmonds City Council

  1. Good summary and yes, I think the public needs to understand expenses more, including salaries and become PART of the process of understanding our financial situation. The new Financial Management Policy requires staff to upload Monthly and Quarterly Summaries so as to provide citizens with a road map as to where our expenses are being spent.

  2. It time for the Council to do their homework prior to making decisions.

    Yesterday, I learned that since 2007 the City of Edmonds paid $126,000 to the law firm Toweill Rice Taylor for Hearing Examiner services.

    This a same firm provides hearing examiner services to the following cities:

    City of Everett: $120.00 per hour not to exceed $10,000 per calendar year.
    City of Redmond $140.00 per hour not to exceed $25,000 per calendar year.
    City of Maple Valley $140.00 per hour not to exceed $25,000 per calendar year.

    What is wrong with this picture? Who is looking out for the Edmonds Taxpayers?

  3. Michael, how many labor contracts have you voted for in the past. Did you voice objections to those contracts.. Just a question, also didnt you vote to have a levy when the citizens group recommend it.Please correct me if I am wrong

  4. Councilman Plunkett’s letter raises a point about public employee salaries, but quotes a Wall Street Journal article to show how such salaries are outpacing those of the general population. This is disingenuous at best, mendacious at worst.
    The Councilman is chair of the Finance Committee, and has full access to the salary information of all City employees. In order to discuss the pay of Edmonds City Employees, we should be talking about their salary, not national averages.
    We can all debate about what motivates such an attack on our public employees’ salaries. Here’s my guess. The Finance Committee is in a bit of a pickle, since their estimates of how the Fire District contract would keep us afloat turned out to be wildly inaccurate (millions of dollars in the red). Now, they’re scrambling to find a way to not have a levy, as that would render their ignoring of the Levy Committee from last year open to criticism.
    Councilwoman Buckshnis’ point is far more insightful. Before choosing to reduce public employee salaries, as a somewhat arbitrary choice, let’s examine all of the revenue streams (including consultant fees), and determine where best to find savings. This methodical approach is more befitting what we expect of our Council, as opposed to choosing a “target of opportunity”.

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