Local Politics

Raleigh to give city manager's raise second look

Posted May 20, 2009 4:12 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2009 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Mayor Charles Meeker said Wednesday that the City Council might review City Manager Russell Allen's recent raise in light of a tight budget.

Two weeks ago, the council approved a 4.75 percent raise for Allen, from $210,000 to $220,000 a year, while extending his contract by a year, through the end of June 2011.

On Tuesday, Allen submitted a $696.2 million budget proposal to the council for the 2009-10 year that caps merit raises for city workers at 4 percent and eliminates a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

"We're getting some push back because other employees are entitled to a 4 percent raise," Meeker said. "So, we'll look at that in the next week or two and see if we can't get everything to calm down."

Allen, who has served as city manager since 2001, declined to comment on his raise.

"I guess what people are thinking is that the manager should be treated like everyone else, and the council is hearing that comment and will make the right decision," Meeker said.

Some city employees said Allen should forgo his raise altogether.

"I have no idea why he took the raise," said Eddie Edgerton, president of Local 150 of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, which represents more than 200 workers in various city departments.

"Instead of him accepting the raise, he should have shown solidarity with us – as workers with the city – to say, 'Hey, I'm on your side. We're all going to go through this together,'" Edgerton said.

Keith Wilder, president of the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association, and Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, both said they think Allen is doing a good job as city manager. They both said, however, that their members are frustrated by his budget proposal.

In addition to cutting raises, the budget plan calls for raising health insurance premiums for workers and eliminating 85 vacant positions to eliminate a projected $20 million shortfall.

"(City workers) will not receive any merit adjustment (or) cost-of-living raise, and their insurance is going to go up. So, their check will be less next year than it is this year," Armstrong said. "I think there's a lot of frustration there."

"We recognize that Russell Allen is an asset to the city," Wilder said. "However, there are over 3,000 other city employees who have dedicated their life's work to making Raleigh a great place in which to work, live and invest."

Allen said that he's heard from a number of employees who are pleased with his proposal because he was able to avoid layoffs and furloughs.

"There's no question these are difficult choices, but I feel good about the budget," he said. "I tried to minimize the adverse impact to employees."

The City Council will debate the proposal next month before adopting a final budget.