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Aronsohn: Managers Not Taking Retroactive 'Incentive Raises' Would Show 'Leadership'

Councilman not in favor of 'bonuses' given layoffs, loss of services; others says it levels playing field with union compensation

Stop us if you’ve heard this before – there’s some disagreement over the spring council resolution to provide what amounts to.

Councilman Paul Aronsohn on Wednesday again chided the decision–which takes an $84,000 pool and allows for up to a 4 percent salary bump based on evaluations– saying it may be the right move down the line, but the timing was not right.

“I’m just asking my council colleagues to step back and think about what we’re about to do,” the councilman said. “This ordinance would effectively set aside tens of thousands of dollars to give incentive bonuses to the most senior managers . . .  While many of them may be very deserving–and I know some of them are–the fact of the matter is we laid off 30 people [in 2010] and cut services,” he said, citing library hours and accessibility issues at Graydon unresolved because of a lack of funds.

While he “liked the bonus idea” and said it should be pursued “at some point,” given the layoffs and reduction in services, Aronsohn said “I don’t know how in good consciences we can do this.”

Village Manager Ken Gabbert took objection to the councilman’s description of the dual ordinance as a “bonus,” to which Aronsohn shot back: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck–this is an incentive bonus,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Passed by the council in March, department heads and managers in a series of reports and Gabbert would make a recommendation as to the “merit” compensation they would receive, anywhere from 0 to 4 percent from 2010 to 2012. The council will need to pass another ordinance in the future to extend the plan to 2012, as the current ordinance delineates 2010 and 2011 compensation.

The ordinance takes 2 percent of the salaries for all staff affected in 2010 and 2 percent of all the salaries that were paid in 2009, along with 2 percent of the anticipated amount in 2010. That amounts to around $84,000 to be doled out, determined by a supervisor's evaluation and ultimately, the recommendation of Gabbert. Also of note, as explained by Deputy Mayor Tom Riche, is that some titles have been scrapped; some personnel that had worked part-time are no longer eligible for automatic raises.

"If someone was to receive a four percent increase, they would receive 2 percent in January 1 of 2010 and 2 percent on January 1, 2011," Gabbert explained in March, when the ordinance passed. "That would be reported back to the mayor and council."

Like the March meeting, the other members of the council expressed either steadfast support or tacit approval.

Mayor Keith Killion said while he “understands” Aronsohn’s objections, he said the plan bridges union and non-union gaps in compensation. The mayor stated that just because union members have a “bloc” and hold negotiation advantages that non-union staff don't hold, doesn't mean the managers should be left out in the cold.

“We’re a small family here. If we’re going to go on that–that middle managers or managers shouldn’t get raises–then no one should get raises. But it seems kind of counterproductive to me to give union members anywhere from two, three, three-and-a-half percent raises in multi-year contracts and then take our managers who oversee these union members and say, ‘No thanks, we’re not going to give you anything.’”

Killion said the village needed consistency “down the line” and this move pushes the village toward that mark.

Aronsohn, however, said he felt there was a “clear distinction” between those who manage and those being managed.

“Leaders lead by example,” he said. “These are tough times, we see it in the private sector. We’re trying to emulate the private sector,” Aronsohn said, “I know a lot of people that own businesses, that manage businesses that didn’t take raises, that didn’t take bonuses so they could keep staff on.”

“That’s what I think we should ask of our managers."

“The system is just messed up,” Killion said. “We’re trying little by little to get there,” he said, adding that when contracts with unions end, “we’ll continue to get there.”

Riche, one of the biggest proponents of the ordinance, again touted its benefits at the council meeting.

“In terms of managers should lead by example, I think that this ordinance and the subsequent ordinance [for non-union, non-supervisory personnel] that we’re going to talk about, does exactly that."

“Municipal government has been in an upward death spiral for years in terms of compensation and the problem that we have . . . was the contracts the mayor spoke about.”

Riche said having subordinates of managers making more than the managers because of step compensation and contractual raises can’t happen and the ordinances “specifically set compensation at zero percent.”

“This is a first in municipal government . . . And then they [managers, non-union personnel] have to earn beyond that."

“It’s a big elephant,” Riche said of overall compensation issues in municipal government. “This is just a small elephant, but it’s moving us in the right direction.”

Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, who voted in favor of the ordinances in March, said the council will examine the outcome of the raises and evaluation later in the year. "We're a little ahead of ourselves because we don't know what the end consideration will be," she said.

Councilman Stephen Wellinghorst was not in attendance at Wednesday's council meeting.

Gabbert could not be reached for comment to discuss where the village is in the evaluation process, as he is away until Thursday.

barbara July 16, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Paul Aronsohn is a breath of fresh air in the polluted room of greedy and self patronizing pols that inhabit the Village Council ranks. Thank goodness there is one lone councilmember that lives in the real world of Ridgewood residents struggling to make their mortgage and outrageous property tax payments. Wake up Village Council members.....residents are moving out in droves....the neighborhoods are soon going to look like the CBD....empty lots!

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