City of Lodi employees will receive a bonus this year thanks to an increase in the city’s budget reserves.
The Lodi City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday night to approve one-time benefit adjustments totaling $647,869 for the coming fiscal year.
The adjustment will affect mid-management, maintenance and operations, general services and confidential employees.
City attorney Steve Schwa-bauer said maintenance and operations employees include street maintenance and wastewater treatment plant employees, while general services employees include those in clerical, assistant, processing or finance positions in the city.
Confidential employees include positions that handle confidential information on a daily basis, such as the deputy city attorney.
According to a memorandum of understanding between city staff, the Lodi City Mid-Managers Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the plan is to pay a base $2,300 cash payment on a one-time basis.
Schwabauer said the payment is not a permanent pay increase, but an increase in payment for just one year.
The increase is possible thanks to increased funds in Lodi’s budget reserves over the last several years, according to City Manager Rad Bartlam.
Schwabauer said that the AFSCME, which is the bargaining unit for maintenance and operations employees as well as general services, requested employees with less than two years of experience receive just half of the $2,300 payment. The remaining $1,150 would be distributed among AFSCME members with more than two years experience.
With Wednesday’s approval, AFSCME members with more than two years of experience will receive a total one-time payment of $2,450.
In addition to the pay increase, each employee will have their medical benefit cap rates increased to the Jan. 1, 2014, lowest cost HMO. The rates will remain in effect until they are reviewed again in 2015.
For example, the city currently pays up to $610.44 in medical benefits for a single employee, which is consistent with 2012 rates. With the council’s approval, the city will now pay up to $657.33 in benefits for a single employee.
The city currently pays up to $1,220.88 in benefits for employees with one dependent, and will now pay up to $1,314.66. The city currently pays up to $1,587.14 for employees with more than one dependent, and will now pay up to $1,709.06.
Resident Ed Miller said he understood the city’s plan, but questioned why the increases were happening now.
“The economy of the country isn’t doing very well,” he said. “We have high unemployment all over Lodi. The retired city employees are compensated very well with benefits and pensions, so could you explain this to me?”
Bartlam told Miller the city has enough reserves to give back to its employees.
“Our employees have actually had pay reductions since 2007,” he said. “In that time frame, we’ve made specific modifications to our facilities and services, and we now have a budget reserve exceeding our target. We’ve decided to use that reserve to help compensate our employees.”
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce said she had trouble accepting a part of the agreement known as the “me too” clause, which essentially states that if one labor group receives a particular pay or benefit increase, the others will, too.
She said the clause shows that many city employees do not trust the council or believe the council doesn’t care about them.
“I can only say thank you to our employees for all they’ve done to make sure our budgets our balanced over the last few years,” she said. “Whether you’re a secretary answering the phone or one of the maintenance guys climbing up a ladder, we care about you all equally.”
Councilman Alan Nakanishi was the dissenting vote on the issue, stating the “me too” clause was harmful to the city, although he said he supported all of the city’s employees.
“Let’s say we need to hire an engineer for the electric utility, but we can’t get him at the price we’d like,” he said. “If we offer him something more, and hire him, then the other groups or employees ask for more.”
Vice Mayor Larry Hansen disagreed, and said he couldn’t vote for a pay raise for one employee group and not give a similar increase to another.
“Everybody needs to be treated the same until we see things (in the economy) turn around, and we can recognize people’s performance when it comes to pay increases,” he said.
The council unanimously approved similar one-time modifications for the city manager, city attorney and city clerk.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at email@example.com.