Most City Council members line up for their yearly raises

Posted: July 26, 2013

ALTHOUGH THE city did not have to make major spending cuts this year, elected officials had to wrestle with ways to help the school district close a whopping budget gap and provide relief to Philadelphians who'll feel the impact of a new property-tax system.

And then there's the elephant in the room - the underfunded pension fund, a serious drain on city coffers that'll eat up nearly 18 percent of this year's budget.

With that in mind, Mayor Nutter and 10 other elected officials are declining a 1.3 percent cost-of-living pay increase that went into effect in July.

"Until the city gets back on its feet and we have proper funding for departments and schools, I think it's the right thing to do," said City Councilman Mark Squilla, who intends to give his raise back.

But 13 others appear to be keeping the extra cash.

"I am going to take the raise because I got to pay my taxes," said City Commissioner Anthony Clark. "So it's going right back to the city."

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez also plans to take it.

"I'm going to keep it," she said. "I'm not like some of my colleagues who have a second job."

Under a law established in 2003, elected officials are eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, an annual pay hike based on the rate of inflation. This year it's 1.3 percent, which ranges from $1,627 to $2,042 for Council members.

Several elected officials did not respond to requests for comment, but payroll information for the first pay period this year obtained from the City Controller's Office shows that five elected officials have declined the raise and are donating it to charity or returning it to the city. Of the 19 elected officials who have received the raise so far; six say they intend to give it back to the city, charity or elsewhere.

District Attorney Seth Williams is also eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment, but under state law in which his increase kicks in at the start of the year. Williams, whose salary is $157,860, has given back $34,363 since 2009 to various organizations including the United Negro College Fund, and plans to donate it this year, too.

Most elected officials have returned thousands of dollars to the city since the 2008 economic slump, noting they felt compelled to contribute in some way.

Nutter asked some of his staff to take salary cuts, furlough days and has continued to take a 10 percent pay cut in addition to declining COLA increases.

"The mayor has been consistent in his leadership by maintaining his personal sacrifice during the difficult times since the recession," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald.

Commissioner Stephanie Singer is hoping her givebacks can help save the city money.

"The issue is that the people who work for me [and] poll workers have not gotten raises, and the justification has always been lack of enough funds to do it," she said.

They're not the only ones who have not had a raise in a while. The city's firefighters and blue- and white-collar unions have worked without raises since their contract expired in 2009.

Also taking their raises are: Council members Bill Green, Dennis O'Brien, Kenyatta Johnson, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bill Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., W. Wilson Goode Jr., Marian Tasco and Bobby Henon; Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci; and Sheriff Jewell Williams.


 

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