Under fire from labor unions for merely questioning automatic pay increases of 2.5% for public employees, Knoxville City Councilman Nick Della Vople, is doing the right thing.
Although Knoxville is tied for 94th in the nation for our unemployment rate of 7.5% and private sector salaries have remained stagnant, the City has mandated that government employees receive a 2.5% annual raise.
To mandate raises by law is absolutely absurd. AFP-Tennessee applauds Councilman Della Vople for raising the issue.
City employees are receiving greater salary bonuses than private sector counter-parts, and enjoy much better benefits.
Paid Days Off: City employees can max out at 33 paid days off annually for vacation and holidays. In the private sector the average maximum for paid days off is 21.7, or 11.3 days less than City employees. These days off to not include sick days, or bereavement benefits that also outpace the private sector.
Longevity Benefits: On top of the 2.5% annual raise, City employees get paid for simply sticking around. Added to the hourly rate of pay is monthly payments of $120 x number of years worked. Longevity pay in addition to annual salary increases is unheard of in the private sector.
Unsustainable Pensions: According to reporting by the Knox News Sentinel taxpayers will contribute $8 million this year to fund city employees pensions. By 2018 that number will grow to $30 million. In seven years time the taxpayers of Knoxville will be forced to contribute $30 million to fund pensions for their public servants. Not only is that about $30 million more than taxpayers in the private sector will receive as employer contributions to their pension, but it is unsustainable and will lead to either severe budget cuts, massive tax increases, or both.
No employee, private or public sector, should have annual salary increases mandated by law. During difficult economic times everyone must recognize that employers do not have the funding to increase salaries especially at 2.5% on top of overly generous benefits packages.
Knoxville must change its municipal code to do away with mandated annual salary increases. Instead the City should live within its means, rein in spending and move away from blanket salary increased and instead institute a system to reward employees based on merit and performance.