Your Views: Pay city employees fairly

Your Views: Pay city employees fairly

To the editor:

The Alexandria city government has a pay philosophy for its employees that salaries will “be competitive at a minimum with the average pay” of its neighboring jurisdictions.. Unfortunately, the salaries of most employees do not meet this criteria. This issue was true before FY21 and was exacerbated with the removal of merit increases and elimination of the proposed 1% raise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An example of this pay issue: The Alexandria Police Department is the lowest paid agency in the entire region, save for Manassas. This makes it extremely difficult to recruit and retain employees.

Merit increases for all city employees were eliminated and a hiring freeze was instituted in the FY21 budget in an effort to protect funding for core city programs due to COVID-19. Employees understood the massive amount of uncertainty and we did not argue against the changes to the budget. Instead, we provided the same level of high-quality service throughout the unprecedented, tumultuous time.

It is worth noting that the work of those hundreds of frozen vacancies did not go uncompleted. The workload was instead picked up by other dedicated city employees so as to maintain seamless service to Alexandria’s residents and visitors. This added work caused burnout and lowered morale as employees took on additional responsibilities.

We have since learned that due to these necessary and appropriate budget decisions, the city saved more than anticipated. Included in those savings was more than $6 million that was created through the FY21 hiring freeze. For this reason, we respectfully request that City Council use money saved in FY21 to reinstitute the FY21 merit increases at a cost of around $3.5 million and the 1.5% adjustment at a cost of about $3.4 million for thousands of deserving city employees.

Merit increases, by definition, are raises provided to employees for performing at or above expectations; the thousands of city employees certainly did this over the last 12 months.

-Ben Saks, President IUPA Local 5; Stephen Mackey, President Alexandria Sheriff’s Association; Josh Turner, President IAFF Local 2141