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Gallagher going over Niagra Falls?

Fri, Oct 16, 2009

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Where angels fear to tread, as the old saw goes. And it remains to be seen whether Councilmember Tom Gallagher has acted foolishly or angelically in proposing an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut for city employees.

Such a cut, Gallagher says, would save $16 million, and go a long ways toward overcoming the city’s projected $24 million budget deficit.

For at least thirty years, councilmembers have held one thing sacrosanct: the welfare of city employees. City workers are sure to vote in the often-ignored April council elections, and probably constitute the single largest voting bloc-especially if you include employees of Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Health Systems.

City employees have traditionally been compensated according to complex metrics which rely heavily upon compensation levels in comparable municipalities. Clearly, the use of such formulae may result in steadily increasing compensation for the employees of all cities in the measured sample.

To the best of my knowledge, no previous councilmember has ever dared call for an outright pay cut for city employees. That’s the third rail of municipal politics – touch it and you die.

So let’s give the oft-maligned and sometimes eccentric Gallagher credit – he’s about to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel of his own devising. It helps that he’s term-limited, and has no reason to coddle favor with voters in some future municipal election, but it’s still a gutsy move.

But does it make sense? A 10 percent pay cut would be devastating for me, and, I suspect, for most of us. But given the choice between such a pay cut and no job, I’d take the pay cut and hope for better times.

My guess is that Gallagher’s proposal will fly in some form. With Sean Paige aboard to stiffen the backs of the now four-member conservative bloc (Gallagher, Darryl Glenn, Bernie Herpin and Paige), it’s likely that council will follow the lead of the county commissioners and do what they have to do. In the best of worlds, that would mean some combination of pay cuts, furloughs, and moderate service reductions, leaving parks, the museum, community centers and swimming pools unscathed.

It’s a tough call-but these are tough times. For most of us, it means working harder, earning less, or coping with layoffs and firings. During the last week, two close friends have lost their private sector jobs through no fault of their own – and I know that they’d be delighted to have a job at the city – even with a 10 percent pay cut. Or maybe even 20…

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Ken G Says:

    Shuddering offices and adding furlough days and curbing attendance at the various conferences should be first. I don’t know that it will save multi-tudes of millions, but….
    Corporate America has been cutting salaries and pay for the past year. ONLY because of fear do most employees accept the cuts because they’d rather have a paycheck and be unemployed. As the economy turns around, will the city re-instate the pay cuts – NO.

    Also do the proposed salary and pay reductions take into account the frozen raises many people ALREADY accepted as concessions in recent years?

    Slaughter the pig, toss out the carcass and keep the services we the taxpayers pay for.

  2. Like it'll matter ..... Says:

    You go, Tom !
    This IS one of the benefits that come w/ term limitation, the ability at the end of the line to think, do & say what you believe needs to be done and said.
    Councilman Gallagher has not been the shiniest penny behind the dias, but the man’s been a steadfast real-worldian and true to his commitment as a PUBLIC servant.

    ps: and if there are any City jobs out there w/a 20% pay cut that the holder just doesn’t want to take ….. I’ll get in line to take it !

  3. bquinn Says:

    Please learn how to spell “Niagara”.

  4. John Whitten Says:

    If you believe the Gazette, (sometimes a risky proposition), he also wanted ‘thousands’ of locals to converge on city hall….something about ‘rightous indignation’, or some other big word phrase that means royally irritated. This is exactly what he didn’t want when his association (a/k/a conflict of interest) with the Morley Water diversion boondoggle was front and center.

    So what’s changed? Maybe term limits ARE a good thing……..

  5. Bruce Hutcheon Says:

    IMO,

    There is a proposition to raise my mil rate in the November election to provide services. Thousands of people who lost their jobs and have no pay. So sorry suck it up and cut pay acrosss the board because that is better than exstensive lay offs. yeash it is a hard pill to swallow but There are 100′s of pepel that would c=go to work for the city and county at substaintial less than what is being paid hourly today. Theee’s have all sorts opf paird benefits which accounts for up to 30% of contributions.

  6. Commentator Says:

    Could it be that Tom, seeing his main source of income (consulting for local developers) dry up, is, instead, angling for the lucrative position of county commissioner? He may or may not have a chance of getting such a pay cut through, but it will sure go a long way towards convincing the blues that he is a die-hard fiscal conservative if he decides to run for county board once his city tenure is up.

  7. Robert S. Says:

    I was resourced recently(nice word for layoff).I would have gladly accepted a pay cut because I already had to take furlough days this year;this practice is called taking one for the team.Since some of you have an option,take the pay cut ,I wish I had that option available to me.Now more likely I will have to start over again,once a job is found,and start at the bottom for seniority, pay, and time off.