Heated discussion over pay increases at city council meeting

Heated discussion erupts at city council meeting over pay increases

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The proposal by Council member Nick Della Volpe was to repeal the 2.5 percent automatic pay increase for employees earning more than $40,000. The proposal by Council member Nick Della Volpe was to repeal the 2.5 percent automatic pay increase for employees earning more than $40,000.
City Council voted down the proposal in a 6-3 vote but in a tight budget year that could include major cuts or tax increases, several council members questioned the 30 year old practice of automatic pay increases. City Council voted down the proposal in a 6-3 vote but in a tight budget year that could include major cuts or tax increases, several council members questioned the 30 year old practice of automatic pay increases.
But Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Kevin Faddis says the 2.5 percent raise is to help make their wages competitive with the private sector. But Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Kevin Faddis says the 2.5 percent raise is to help make their wages competitive with the private sector.
According to Vice Mayor Pavlis, if this proposal had passed it could have saved the City around $1 million. Mayor Rogero will present her final budget on April 24. According to Vice Mayor Pavlis, if this proposal had passed it could have saved the City around $1 million. Mayor Rogero will present her final budget on April 24.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE)  –  A contentious vote Tuesday night as city council members debate cutting raises for city workers.

City Council voted down the proposal in a 6-3 vote but in a tight budget year that could include major cuts or tax increases, several council members questioned the 30 year old practice of automatic pay increases. 

The proposal by Council member Nick Della Volpe was to repeal the 2.5 percent automatic pay increase for employees earning more than $40,000. 

According to Civil Service Director Vicki Hatfield, it would affect 788 employees, about half of the city workers.

Hundreds of police officers, firefighters and city employees packed the Main Assembly room Tuesday night to demonstrate their opposition to getting rid of the annual raises.

"I'm suggesting taking it off automatic pilot," Council member Della Volpe said to the council. "Put the discretion to the administration to evaluate it and let them make the increases where they make sense."

The automatic pay increases have been in place since the 1980s but Mayor Madeline Rogero says the annual raises are necessary to ensure compensation for City employees is in line with surrounding cities.

"Our goal is to stay competitive," Mayor Rogero told the council.  "We ask a lot of them and we should reflect that in their compensation."

Several council members were opposed to the idea.

"Government is a service provider, that's what we do. You look at all these faces out here and this is what all these folks get up every day to do, to ensure the tax dollars we collect are given back adequately and fairly to the tax payers of Knoxville. And that's why I think it's important to continue on with the 2.5 percent," Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis said.

Current and past city employees stood up before the council to ask them to vote down the proposal and things got a bit heated.

"There's a 190 people who live in this city, not just you," Council member Della Volpe shouted to the crowd. 

In the end, Della Volpe, George Wallace and Duane Grieve voted to end the automatic pay increases, while Nick Pavlis, Brenda Palmer, Marshall Stair, Mark Campen, Daniel Brown and Finbarr Saunders voted to keep it. 

But Della Volpe says it was important discussion to be had. 

"The question of how you do you pay the bills is important, our revenue is flat, our costs are going up and I really thought we could have a world where we didn't have our finger automatically on the pedal but apparently not," he said after the vote. 

But Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Kevin Faddis says the 2.5 percent raise is to help make their wages competitive with the private sector. 

"As an employee with the City of Knoxville I'm certainly not looking to break the bank," said Capt. Faddis.

"You can spin the numbers any way you want, a 2.5 to us city employees, we've been behind since 1981, that's what the  2.5 is for, to try to get us caught up." 

Back in 2008 a comprehensive study of the city's wages found they were lower than average. Another study I in the works that will take a look at how those salaries measure up today. 

According to Vice Mayor Pavlis, if this proposal had passed it could have saved the City around $1 million. Mayor Rogero will present her final budget on April 24. 

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