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When I got the email that the merit pay amounts for Burbank City Employees was ready to be picked up from the City Attorney’s office, I was somewhat apprehensive to find out what it really contained. After the Bell incident, you wondered what was going on in every other city in Southern California.
In the envelope was the amount that every city employee made in merit pay since 2007, all the way to the current 2010/2011 fiscal year. I quickly turned to the current year that were five double sided pages of names and amounts.
At first, I started scanning the the column with the merit pay amounts, looking for that huge number. I never found it. The highest amount was $22,000 (more on that later).
What I did find were a lot of amounts like $1,123, $672.58, $1,661.93, and a few high amounts like $5,093.67, $3,808.58, and $6,082. The average amount was between $1,000 and $3,000 with some of the merit pay amounts as low as $250.
So there is no smoking gun, no Bell pay scandal, it’s just pay awarded to employees who have done their job. And before you start accusing City Manager Mike Flad of paying money to his friends, or supervisors giving more to their brother or son then someone, you just won’t find it.
There were no backroom deals made here, hush money paid, or special favors done.
Since the day that Flad started as City Manager, I have found someone who always responds to questions that I have asked, and never not been assessable, with both of his Deputy City Managers always available. Am I relieved about the merit pay amounts, no. I always expected numbers like this, while the handful of ‘Chicken Little’s’ will once again be very disappointed.
And to the employees of the city that receive these bonuses, I say ‘well done’. Yes, they have well paying jobs but let’s look at it from their point of view.
They applied for a job and then have done their job well. Like you and me, they want to earn as much as they can to make a better life for themselves. Merit pay is something that has been offered out in the open for years. This is not a back door program.
Think about how much you, the average citizen, really deal with a city employee. Maybe you call once every couple of years to have some bulky items picked up at your house. You might stop by the Animal Shelter for your dog license. Were the line long, were the employees friendly?
Is your trashed picked up every week, does the street sweeper come by every week, are the parks clean and the grass mowed. Do you feel protected by a world class fire and police department? Are you glad you live in Burbank and not Los Angeles or Glendale?
If the answer is yes, then don’t begrudge these employees the chance to earn a few extra dollars a year for doing a good job that they probably spend on their kids at Christmas or their families on a vacation. No one is getting rich here.
These are also the same city employees that have had their wages frozen for the past several years and in some cases, their unions came to the City to help cooperate in these times instead of demanding raises.
With that said, let’s get back to that $22,000 bonus. Our winner here is Ron Davis from Burbank Water and Power. Now, while his merit pay is well within the guidelines established, it just seems that with employees taking less, it might be a nice gesture on his part to either refuse or take less then is what offered.
After all, everyone in Burbank did their best to conserve water, the result was Davis saying he might have to raise rates because people were using less water. Huh?
I am grateful for the Los Angeles Times lawyers who fought to bring out this information to prove that we do not live in a corrupt city. And since I am a taxpayer in Burbank, I was glad to pick up the report that I paid about 50 cents of my tax money for.
I also have no problem with the merit pay program continuing. To me it makes more sense than the new policy of just giving extra vacation time. When someone is on vacation a longer period of time, less actually gets done plus you have the extra cost of more people on the payroll to fill in.
Although I have the printout of employees and their merit amounts, I also have no reason to print their names and amounts. These are not pro contracts of sports stars, they are everyday citizens and while we have a right to know how much tax money is being spent on salaries, I also have to measure that with a certain amount of respect for them.
Maybe others will print everything with the ‘right to know’ banner, but I am satisfied with what I wanted to know – which that even in these lean times, people are doing the best possible job that they can.