Letter At Length

Public trust at stake over proposed raises

They can't be serious! Our mayor and City Council are now considering raising salaries for some city staff. If they did, fiscal sensibility and self-control is even more amiss! Community tolerance is beyond frayed for the council's repeated approval of hiring expensive consultants while inventing or raising every tax and fee they can think of.

The March 8 Tidings reported that a consultant firm from the Sacramento area was paid $51,660 for a city "compensation study." The consultants stated that "almost 30 employees ... are being paid more than the median amount." Also, the 10 highest-paid positions, which include the city administrator, city attorney and all eight department heads, are "paid at least $90,000" and are "paid less than the median for other public employees in their fields."

Whoa! If those 10 employees with "at least $90,000" feel underprivileged, they need to check their own sense of the Ashland community during a time of harsh economics. If, as Martha Bennett suggests, talent might seek employment elsewhere for a higher salary, that particular talent is not a good fit for our community anyway.

The study also reports: "City of Ashland employees pay 5 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums." In comparison: "The average Oregonian who receives health insurance through a public or private sector employer paid 14 percent of the coverage. The average Oregonian who received full family coverage paid 26 percent of the premium."

That information clearly indicates that our city is overly generous to its employees at the expense of the taxpayers. In comparison, we are all well aware that, among many deserving workers, local university, public library and public school staffs have suffered major financial cutbacks.

A responsible solution in this forthcoming discussion would be to cap all salaries and increase the employees' share of their health premiums. By doing so, the city could recoup the $51,660 consultant fee as well as bring some parity among our public employees and the taxpayers.

Taxpayers, make your voice heard before or at the March 16 City Council hearing. Let our governing body know this is an opportunity to regain some public trust.

Marilyn Briggs


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