Archive for Wednesday, November 4, 2009

City restores full employee bonus

City commissions agreed Tuesday to allocate $130,000 for city employee year-end bonuses. The decision came on the conclusion that city employees have been responsible with the city budget during these difficult economic times.

November 4, 2009


Lawrence city commissioners felt good enough about the city’s financial condition Tuesday night to add $130,000 to this year’s budget to provide a boost to a year-end employee bonus program.

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners agreed to pay eligible city employees $48 per year for every year of service with the city. That’s the same amount the city has paid in past years, but commissioners had budgeted to pay only $24 per year this year because of the tight economy.

Commissioners, though, said city employees deserved the full bonus amount because they had worked hard to cut city expenses and were creating a new fiscal culture at City Hall.

“They are treating it like it is their money,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said of how city employees are scrutinizing city spending. “If that is the culture we’re starting to instill, I want to reward that.”

Commissioner Lance Johnson was the lone commissioner to vote against adding the money to the budget. He said city employees deserved the larger-than-budgeted bonuses, but he said he was not convinced the city’s finances were solid enough to make the extra payment.

The remaining commissioners expressed optimism that they would be able to add the $130,000 without causing the 2009 budget to become unbalanced.

That chore may become trickier as the final months of the year wind down. Already, the city is projecting that general fund revenue will be about $950,000 less than the city budgeted to collect. But the city staff has made enough cuts in spending to offset that loss of revenue, and create about a $100,000 cushion for the budget.

But just this week, staff members learned that October’s sales tax payment from the state came in about $100,000 less than the already lowered projections. Income from interest earnings also may be $50,000 to $80,000 less than projected. Corliss said he could not rule out that November and December sales tax collections also will be significantly less than projected.

Corliss, though, said he would be prepared to make more cuts to the budget — avoiding layoffs — if necessary. He said commissioners have made it clear that they do not want to dip into the city’s fund balance, which is the equivalent of a savings account.

In other business, commissioners:

• Were told that a significant economic development project may be coming the city’s way. In an unusual move, Corliss met with one to two commissioners at a time prior to the meeting to provide them a briefing on a subject. Corliss would not comment on those discussions, but he said during the meeting that an economic development project may be added to next week’s commission meeting.

• Approved conceptual plans to rebuild Kasold Drive between 31st Street and Clinton Parkway next summer. The plans call for the road to remain open to traffic during construction.

• Agreed to move forward with a $1.5 million addition at the Carnegie Library at Ninth and Vermont streets. The addition will allow the building to be used as offices for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Parks and Recreation Department.


OutlawJHawk 8 years, 7 months ago

Ridiculous. City employees are public servants; they are not working in corporate America. You are paid to manage and care about the stewardship of OUR tax dollars and money. You taking ownerhsip of your job does not merit a bonus. No bonus should be paid to public employees, ever.

John Hamm 8 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations to Commissioner Lance Johnson! One of Five to show some fiscal responsibility. You'll catch flak for your decision but I support it completely.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

Maybe ya'll would prefer that we fire all city employees and offer them 40 acres and a mule.

Steve Miller 8 years, 7 months ago

No, don't fire them, just give them the mule and a loaf of bread and some water. The city is non profit anyway, how is this justified. Sounds like a good ole boy stunt.

jaseuell 8 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for true leadership Lance Johnson. Now I am better understanding what MY tax dollars being spent on. No matter how good of a job I did at my last employer, no bonus.

City tax payer, thank you

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

Smoke and mirrors

Corliss touts the hardwork of city employees to generate savings as the reason for the bonuses being reinstated. Lets look at the savings noted... from his memo

· Vacant positions - A number of vacant positions have remained/will remain unfilled including positions in Planning, Administrative Services, Parks and Recreation, and Legal. In other departments, positions were budgeted for the entire year but were vacant for a period of time, generating savings (estimated savings - $658,000);

· Fuel - In February, division budgets were reduced to reflect lower fuel prices (estimated savings - $130,000);

· Rental Registration Program – despite funds being budgeted, the rental registration program was not expanded in 2009 (estimated savings - $68,600);

· Contractor Licensing Program – It is assumed that fewer contractors will be receiving education through Johnson County (estimated savings - $45,000);

· Primary Election - Because of the changes in State law, it was not necessary to hold a primary election in 2009. (estimated savings - $34,000);

· Insurance – Savings are expected from insurance premiums, which increased less than anticipated when budgeted for 2009 (estimated savings – $30,000)

· Equipment – funds encumbered for equipment will not be spent (estimated savings - $30,000);

· Postage – based on expenditures to date, it is likely that some savings will be achieved (estimated savings - $24,500);

· Natural Gas – natural gas prices have been lower than anticipated (estimated savings -$19,500); Advertising – reduced recruitment for positions should produce savings (estimated savings - $13,000)

· Signs and sign materials ­ - purchase of sign replacement materials will be deferred (estimated savings - $10,000)

I see zero in the above items that indicates any hard work occurring. Not filling unneeded positions , not having to have a primary , natural gas and insurance being less than projected , and the rental registration program being canceled. The contractors education program is paid for by contractors.

This is more accurately reflected as we got lucky and didn't have to pay out 968,000 . Dave "Hornblower" Corliss strikes again.

Tom Hilger 8 years, 7 months ago

With the increase in parking meter fees and fines, there should be NO problem coming up with the $.$$

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

With all that money were making selling water to everyone why are our water rates taking double digit increases every year ? And where is the trash audit while were at it ?

i would suspect if the truth be known that were losing our ass on water and trash.

bd 8 years, 7 months ago

Cowboy, anytime vacant positions are not filled , someone has to work harder to take up the slack.

But I do agree that they should not have not given longivity bonuses this year!


cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

BD , when you are overstaffed for current needs there is no additional load. One only need look at the reduction in processes to deduct that there is less need for hours. Reduction in the construction industry , less revenue transactions all have an impact.

LA_Ex 8 years, 7 months ago

Outlaw Jhawk seems to think very little of city employees. I think maybe he is too wrapped up in the servant part of public servant.

mom_of_three 8 years, 7 months ago

Bonuses because they did a good job. SO what are they supposed to do at work, a lousy job. C'mon, city, lots of people who work did not even get raises this year due to the economy. Does that mean we didn't deserve them? Pay what you budget - isn't that what a budget is for.

BigPrune 8 years, 7 months ago

Everyone knew the City employees would get their bonuses.

I'm more interested in this: "a significant economic development project may be coming the city’s way" and..."an economic development project may be added to next week’s commission meeting"

conservative 8 years, 7 months ago

Bonus have been cut or eliminated by many many companies over the last few years. Why would the commission think it is right to spend taxpayer money like this in this economic climate?. What is even more disturbing is the statement that if they have to come up with more money to pay for it they will not cut any positions. I'm not saying that is necessarily the thing to do, however looking at the employees realistically and deciding where we are overstaffed is something that needs to happen occasionally.

inspire 8 years, 7 months ago

Come on people, $48 per year for jobs that many of us wouldn't do? I support the bonus to these workers and hope the bonuses instill some morale in a time when that is surely needed. Thanks to all our city workers!

conservative 8 years, 7 months ago

Compensation for the jobs comes in the form of a paycheck. Bonuses are things that for profit companies do to reward employees when profits are up. Those same employees don't have an employer who doesn't ever seem to look at if it is overstaffed. I've been a taxpayer in this city for 20 years and my morale is low about how the commission is spending our money. Can i apply their formula and take 960 off my property taxes this year?

BigPrune 8 years, 7 months ago

Why are City workers' morale down anyway?

Didn't the City government triple in size during the 1990's when Lawrence grew yet City policies dictate that Lawrence shouldn't grow anymore? The City government can grow and that's okay with City Hall, but the City still uses an outdated and restrictive sacred cow Horizon 2020 that never took into account Lawrence's growth during the 1990's and doesn't allow for growth to this day. I see something very wrong with this picture.

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

how many of you get 12 days vacation your first year , 12 sick days , 2 personal days and have a 300 dollar deductibe on your insurance. City jobs are good jobs !

That said i don't think anyone here is criticizing the rank and file city employee but becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of cost control , increasing service costs , economic development void , and lack of effective leadership in city staff and the commission.

I hope this eco devo secret is a big un but I rather doubt it. I will gladly eat serious crow if it is something good !

mom_of_three 8 years, 7 months ago

consumer1 - who pissed in your coffee this morning? Calling lots of people names for speaking about their legitimate concerns.
I know how much those people in the water department make, and it's more than people who work in retail, or fast food make for that matter. It certainly isn't a minimum wage job. And I don't think they put up with anything more than someone else who works a customer service job. the fact is the city budgeted $24 for each year of service, but now they want to pay more. Stick with the budget. Be happy for the $24 you get to give them, because lots of people who also work hard don't get raises this year.

LadyJ 8 years, 7 months ago

Is Corliss getting a bonus of any kind?

ilovelucy 8 years, 7 months ago

How about single city employees who get their health insurance paid in full? How sweet is that? That ought to be considered a big "bonus."

Godot 8 years, 7 months ago

And next month, the entire staff of the City of Lawrence will appear on the Obama administration list of "created or saved jobs."

"About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren't saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren't saved.

The administration now acknowledges overcounting in the new numbers for the HHS program. Elizabeth Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the White House recovery office, said the Obama administration was reviewing the Head Start data ''to determine how and if it will be counted.''

But officials defended the practice of counting raises as saved jobs.

''If I give you a raise, it is going to save a portion of your job,'' HHS spokesman Luis Rosero said."

The ultimate oxymoron: Obama administration logic.

monkeyhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

"I'm more interested in this: “a significant economic development project may be coming the city’s way” and…”an economic development project may be added to next week’s commission meeting”

Could it be spelled F-A-R-M-L-A-N-D?

pace 8 years, 7 months ago

While I am no fan of the City Fathers or the management culture that has developed there. The city employees more than deserve their bonus. They work hard and get a lot of crap. Every tax payer feels like they can just trash the crew because they hate something the city has or has not done. I saw someone throw a rock at a city truck. The employees are usually the first to pay in any economic hic up, they don't receive raises a lot of years because some politician is using their paycheck to keep the promise they made to get elected. Cuts are made to employee work forces with no regard to what it takes to get a job done. They cut corners there, they cut the crew in half and then cry if the results aren't up to their standards, doesn't stop them from halving the crew again the next year. Don't like pot holes, want the snow moved, the water to flow, an answer to a phone call. Cut the administrators salaries if we need to, to pay the working people bonuses. They deserve their pay. I hope that other people who have some idea how hard and dedicated most of the city employees work speak up. Their bonus is deserved and we should show our gratitude for their work.

kmat 8 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

nouseforaname 8 years, 7 months ago

There is too much confusion and misinformation in these comments.

First, this bonus is a LONGEVITY bonus, meaning that you have to have worked for the City for at least 5 years before you qualify for it; so, not every City employee will get one.

Secondly, yes, City employees get a lot of perks, but they also get those perks taken away very quickly during bad economic times. For example, City employees do get merit-based raises. In the past, these raises could total 5% of an employee's total wages, but now they are sitting at only 1.25%. That means entry-level clerks (who, as consumer1 put it, work with the angry public a lot) making between $27k-$28k will only get about a $300 or $400 raise for the year.

Third, City employees used to get a cost-of-living pay increase. That doesn't happen anymore. So, between this longevity bonus and a 1.25% raise; that's it - wages for City employees are going to be relatively stagnant for awhile.

frogtoad 8 years, 7 months ago

How many city employees are there? I need to multiple this $48 appropriately.

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

Just don't give the bonus to the five lazy dogs that have been working on a hole on my corner all day. I have come and gone three different times today and seen all of them standing around shooting the breeze each time . It's now a betting joke as we come down the street , 3 standing two working for 5 bucks.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 7 months ago

Somebody up above said that our city employees do jobs nobody else would do. Bull crap, fire them all tomorrow and see how many folks line up to get one of those city jobs and they would be happy to have that job with no bonus.

parrothead8 8 years, 7 months ago

OutlawJHawk (Anonymous) says… Ridiculous. City employees are public servants; they are not working in corporate America. You are paid to manage and care about the stewardship of OUR tax dollars and money. You taking ownerhsip of your job does not merit a bonus. No bonus should be paid to public employees, ever.

Those in corporate America are paid to manage and care about the stewardship of our stock shareholder dollars, so by your logic they should also be considered public servants and, therefore, ineligible for bonuses.

However, I agree that merely taking ownership of one's job does not merit a bonus. The fact that city employees "are treating it like it is their money,” according to Mayor Chestnut, does not impress me. In fact, they are taxpayers, it IS their money, and they should have been treating it like that all along. Change that should have been happening all along is not's just finally doing your job.

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