Once again, the law of unintended consequences threatens to unravel the city of Mesquite’s financial situation.
It started two years ago when the city granted the police and fire union employees pay raises. Both contracts included provisions for ‘step increases’ in pay based on length of employment and disciplinary history. The only union employees who did not receive a 4 or 5 percent monetary gain were those topped out on their seniority.
Then the Teamsters Union #14 who represents the fire union employees immediately began invoking the “me too” clause in the rank-and-file union employee contract. After months of fighting that, the city was ordered into arbitration by a judge.
Those arbitration talks are still underway.
But let’s fast forward to the recent city budget hearings held May 11 and 12 with the final budget approved May 24 and see where else unintended consequences are taking the taxpayer.
Fire Chief Kash Cristopher submitted his departmental budget that included a 20 percent pay raise for himself and a 15 percent pay raise for the deputy fire chief. He later based his salary increase on his accomplishments over the two years he’s been here and that he didn’t get a pay raise last year when police department managers got a 5 percent per year stepped pay raise.
That sounds a lot like a “me too” argument.
But this isn’t about who gets what and why. This is about making major decisions like pay raises in a very myopic way.
The council should have seen the law of unintended consequences unfolding when they granted the fire/police union raises two years ago. Did they really think the Teamsters union bosses wouldn’t notice?
Then when council granted the police management raises last year did they really think other department managers wouldn’t notice?
And now that council has once again tried to operate in isolation with the fire department manager raises do they think the other managers who were left out wouldn’t notice?
And all this while the city is in arbitration with the rank-and-file union crying that they don’t have enough money to carry out the “me too” clause that the council included in the 2013 union contract.
The city needs to just go ahead and settle with the teamster’s union in the arbitration talks. The council just threw away any argument that might be made about not having enough money for pay raises.
Council needs to reconsider giving all 20 and 15 percent of the fire managers’ raises in one lump sum. Even if some council members don’t believe in step increases and want to go with merit raises, the percentages are simply too high to award all at once.
Then, the council needs to go back and re-learn the law of unintended consequences. Taxpayers can’t afford much more of the fallout from council not paying attention to it. BE