Gilbert employees will get pay hikes totaling $1.5 million


By: Parker Leavitt

Posted: Dec.9th, 2011

Gilbert employees’ next paycheck will be considerably bigger after the Town Council on Thursday approved one-time pay increases worth $1.5 million.

Full and part-time employees will receive pay increases of $700 to $2,000 in their next paycheck, which comes Dec. 16, according to a town report. Seasonal and temporary employees who have worked at least 1,000 hours in the last year will get $250, the report says.

Town revenues have consistently exceeded forecasts for several months, putting the town about $1.9 million in the black so far this year after a $1.8 million surplus in the fiscal year that ended last June 30.

Officials credited better-than-expected sales-tax collections for much of the financial improvement.

Times were much leaner over the last few years, and employee salaries have remained flat for 3½ years. Merit-based raises have not been given since July 2007, and cost-of-living raises were last doled out in July 2008.

Gilbert is in the process of conducting an employee-compensation study to bring pay rates closer to industry standards, but the results won’t likely be known for several months.

“My guess is that you have some positions that are slightly above market and some that are slightly or even more-than-slightly below market,” consultant Bruce Lawson told the council at a budget meeting last month.

In the meantime, Mayor John Lewis said the time is right to support town employees with a short-term reward before Christmas. “If this were to happen, this is the time,” Lewis said.

The town cannot legally give bonuses, Town Attorney Susan Goodwin said. Instead, officials are calling it a “one-time distribution to employees in lieu of a base compensation.”

Two town employees publicly thanked the council after its action.

Water department employee Fernando Villalobos said the meet-and-confer process, which allowed employees to meet with management to work out the details on the pay increases, ensured their interests were heard.

Rachel Lopez-Delgado, a court clerk, said she appreciated the one-time increase but asked for a more permanent fix. “I’ve been with the town for 13 years now, and I haven’t had a raise in the last five years,” Lopez-Delgado said. “Please consider adjusting our wages. Our morale is kind of getting weighed down.”

Councilmen Victor Petersen, Jordan Ray and Eddie Cook nearly played the role of Scrooge on Thursday when they voted to delay action on the pay increase until at least next week.

Petersen said he would rather wait until after the holidays, giving him at least a month to gather data. But Ray’s motion to delay action, seconded by Petersen, failed with a 3-4 vote.

“I’m not comfortable with this for a number of reasons,” Petersen said. “I’m looking at this purely as a business decision and, at the end of the day, how this affects the citizens of Gilbert.”

Ray said his concern was about transparency, because the figures for the proposed pay increases didn’t come out until about 8:37 p.m., after the council meeting had already begun.

“The public, for the first time, they are hearing the actual numbers, percentages, etcetera,” Ray said.

Vice Mayor Jenn Daniels followed with a motion to approve the pay increases, which passed with a 5-2 vote. Lewis, Daniels, Cook and Councilmen Ben Cooper and John Sentz voted in favor, while Petersen and Ray voted against.

Funding for the pay increases will come from the general fund ($1.2 million) and other operating funds ($292,000), according to a town report. Employees’ individual amounts will be decided based on a flat rate plus a percentage of salary.

Gilbert has about 1,072 full-time employees and 135 seasonal and temporary employees, according to a report from November’s budget meeting.