Buettner explains decision to hike city attorney's salary
Council president says almost $20,000 raise was needed to stay competitive
By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
October 22, 2009
WINCHESTER -- The City Council wants to revisit salaries for government workers and make them more competitive.
The council began this month with City Attorney Anthony "Tony" Williams by giving him a 20 percent raise.
The council unanimously passed a resolution Oct. 6 to increase Williams' pay to $124,000 following a closed session convened to discuss personnel matters. That's an increase from $104,728.
The change comes amid reduced revenues during an economic slowdown. Additionally, the city's current budget includes no salary increases for any employees as well as a freeze on hiring for some noncritical positions.
Council President Jeffrey Buettner on Wednesday defended the council's action as a way to keep Williams in his position rather than lose "a first-class city attorney."
"We felt we needed to address a deficiency in his salary even in a tight, tight time, when you've got somebody who's been with you for four years and he's still making one of the lowest salaries in the state, that needs to be addressed or he'd start looking elsewhere," Buettner said.
Councilman Evan Clark concurred.
"Mr. Williams wanted to stay, he had been with the city for some time and I think he's given the city excellent service," Clark said. "I think council feels that way, I think city staff feel that way. Hopefully the citizens of Winchester feel that way as well."
Williams had been offered a higher salary by another locality and could have left, Clark said.
"At this time, with all the things the city is trying to deal with, I think city council felt strongly that this was not the time to lose one of our key players," Clark said.
Winchester appeared to pay one of the lowest salaries for its attorney compared to other cities in Virginia, according to Buettner. The city risks paying more to hire a third party to perform Williams' duties or someone with his skills, Buettner said.
The council found the city's pay scale gave it flexibility to increase Williams' salary without changing his grade, according to Buettner.
"At the same time, we've gotta apply the same thing to the whole city and, while we're certainly not saying we're going to go out and give huge increases to anyone, we also need to be competitive," Buettner said.
Pay raises may be needed in spite of the economic downturn.
"We absolutely understand the economy and I think the actions we took last year -- with putting furlough days in, with the selection of hiring freezes, with no pay increase -- shows we understand the economy," Buettner said. "But at the same time, we've got to be adaptable enough to identify problem areas and address them."
The council asked interim City Manager Robert Noe Jr. to look into studying salaries and benefits for all employees and advertise for a consultant's services. The city has not committed funds to hiring a consultant, Buettner added.
A new study should look at competitive neighboring localities and the private sector, Buettner said. A similar study done three years ago found the city "fairly deficient" in its salaries, Buettner recalled.
"If we want to have a first-class city, which I think we all do, we have to have a first-class staff and to do that we've got to pay competitive salaries and benefits," Buettner said. "When we did the study [it] was at the height of the economic boom time so we don't feel it's really prudent to pull that out because the game has changed."
"It's my opinion that it's ill-advised to spend money on having a consultant come in when we did so not long ago," he said, adding that many people in the work force don't expect raises during the bad economy and are happy just to keep their jobs.
We do live in America, correct? It’s the land of the free where we have choices to make each and every day. OK, a choice that the local citizens have to make, to work in the local area or to commute out of the area for a potential higher paying job. For those who make a decision to leave the local system, good luck and someone else will fill the vacated position and will be very much qualified to do so.
Lastly ... Nobody is indispensable.
[Posted October 22, 2009 @8:05pm]
Emergency, call the City Attorney?
I want to be certain I have this correct: The City Attorney is receiving an 18.1 percent raise. The firefighters and police officers in the City of Winchester have their salaries “frozen” for this year.
I’d like to ask the residents of Winchester a question: If your home is on fire at 3 a.m. and you have children trapped in a second-floor bedroom, are you going to call the City Attorney? Or, if you have a parent who collapses at Thanksgiving dinner with chest pains and becomes unconscious, do you think the City Attorney will respond to your 911 call? How about the sound of breaking glass in the middle of the night when someone breaks into your home — is the City Attorney going to face that criminal in a back alley to ensure your protection?
Council’s actions on this matter show a total lack of respect to all the other city employees who go to work every day, in service to the residents of Winchester. Many face life-and-death decisions in the performance of their duties. If a wage freeze must be endured during these difficult times, then such a wage freeze should be shouldered by all city employees, including the City Attorney.
As a resident of Frederick County, perhaps I should have no comment in this matter, but as a past firefighter, I find it appalling that those who risk their lives — firefighters and police officers — are ignored, and the guy who has the job of pulling your “fat from the fire” when you make your stupid decisions gets such a pay raise.
In the race to see which jurisdiction can come up with the dumbest way to waste money, Winchester or Frederick County, I believe you just took the lead with this one.
October 29, 2009
The Winchester Star, Letters to Editor
If the City Attorney was offered another opportunity, then congratulations and the citizens appreciate your service and we will find another qualified Attorney to fill the position.
Bottom-line, IF you want to work in Winchester this is the pay-scale, if you like it, then apply, if not, then there are other opportunities elsewhere and good-luck.
Those firefighters that serve and protect the citizenry are the ones that deserve a much needed raise. These individuals have been slighted by their own.
[Updated October 29, 2009 @2:55am]
Hang in there, true Americans
After reading Doug Kiracofe’s letter (Your Views, Oct. 29), I am compelled to agree with him. It never fails to amaze me how little respect/reward those in the “trenches” receive while those in the so-called “upper echelon” receive it all.
I am a disabled American veteran who served honorably for more than 20 years, through Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam. After retiring, I was employed as a police officer for the Department of Defense, being retired on a disability.
On a much larger scale, personnel receiving disability compensation from the Veterans Administration, Medicare (via age), and other federally funded programs generally receive a small raise — i.e., 2.1 percent or higher depending on the cost of living index.
For the year 2010, our congressional leaders in Washington decided that due to the economic situation these individuals would not receive any increase! But wait! They gave themselves a rather substantial increase in their salaries!
Rest assured, things are going to get worse with our country being transformed to a Marxist nation by those currently in power. Hang in there, true Americans!
F. L. Hileman
Letter to Editor, The Winchester Star
[Posted November 4, 2009 @6:30am]