Many of Nutter's top staffers have stopped taking pay cuts

Mayor Nutter (presiding at a signing ceremony in April) is again giving up a pay raise this year, but 22 top staffers are keeping theirs for the first time in three years. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)
Mayor Nutter (presiding at a signing ceremony in April) is again giving up a pay raise this year, but 22 top staffers are keeping theirs for the first time in three years. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 01, 2012

IN 2008, when Mayor Nutter was proposing unpopular budget cuts to pools and libraries, he was quick to point out that his top staffers would also be taking a pay cut. Starting in 2009, he and his top staffers took salary cuts ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent, as a way to soften the impact of the budget crisis on taxpayers.

Now, after three years of givebacks, 22 of Nutter's top staffers have stopped taking pay cuts.

Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler's salary went from $152,000 back to $160,000. City Solicitor Shelley Smith's went from $165,741 back to $174,464. Federal legislative-affairs director Teresa Gillen's rose from $147,250 back to $155,000.

The top staffers' salaries, which were restored in January, will cost the city an extra $116,400 this year.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said that Nutter decided that his staff had given back sufficiently after pay cuts and a week of unpaid furlough in 2009 and 2010. He also pointed out that nine of Nutter's top staffers, including Finance Director Rob Dubow and chief of staff Everett Gillison, are still taking pay cuts totaling almost $83,000.

Nutter is also still slashing his own salary. According to the City Controller's Office, he has given back more than $97,000 in salary to the city since the economic downturn.

Zack Stalberg, president of the government watchdog Committee of Seventy, said that Nutter should have been more transparent about restoring the officials' pay. He also wondered whether the city has recovered enough to justify the decision.

"They made a big deal of the cuts, and they have a responsibility to at least let people know," said Stalberg. "I think given the state of the city's finances and the school district's finances that it's certainly questionable. Cities and states across the country are in a real jam, and the school district in particular is deep in a hole."

Council and Nutter raised property taxes by almost 3.6 percent this year in order to give more money to the cash-strapped school district. The city has also warned that a recent arbitration award to give firefighters a pay bump could lead to a deep budget deficit.

Bill Gault, president of the firefighters' union, said Nutter can't argue that the city doesn't have enough money for firefighters' raises while also restoring salaries for his top staffers.

"No matter what they keep crying about, the city's doing all right. They're building all over," says Gault. "We're so top-heavy with administrators in this city, who's taking care of public safety?"

Nutter's decision to restore his top staffers' pay had an effect on City Council.

Philadelphia's elected officials are eligible for a cost-of-living raise this year, and Jane Roh, spokeswoman for Council President Darrell Clarke, said that Clarke declined to take a position on the pay bump due to the restoration of salaries for Nutter's top aides.

At least seven Council members are taking the COLA raise. Nutter is not taking his.

Holly Otterbein writes for It's Our Money, a joint project of the Daily News and WHYY funded by the William Penn Foundation, that works to shed light on where your tax dollars are going.

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