“Until city governments tie salaries to the communities they serve,” we will be forever growing the size of government.
Lakewood workers are worried.
So worried that city employees are “taking a Monday night away from their families to show the City Council” just how worried they are.
Dylan Carlson, representing the union that covers approximately 100 employees in the city’s Public Works Department, said “salary surveys conducted by the city show ‘a tremendous number of workers are dramatically underpaid.’”
A Public Disclosure Request has been submitted for (a) what constitutes “a tremendous number;” and (b) how “dramatically underpaid” the “tremendous number” actually are; and (c) to whom this “tremendous number” of “dramatically underpaid” city employees’ salaries were contrasted such that worries are high given their income is purportedly so low; and (d) how many are “leaving to work elsewhere, taking their skills and expertise with them,” according to Carlson.
Especially since City Attorney Heidi Wachter said “she wasn’t aware of a ‘mass exodus’ of staff because of poor pay.”
And because Wachter also said that in fact “salary surveys have also shown some positions significantly higher than similar positions in other cities.”
And because tax payers foot the bill.
According to a 2013 report in the Municipal Research Services Center for the State of Washington,Lakewood has 234 full time employees and nine part time employees for a city of 58,840.
However, as John Arbeeny – former deputy mayor of Lakewood – wrote, “merely using population size to determine comparable cities is at the heart of this fallacy when it comes to public employee salaries.”
Bellevue, according to Arbeeny, is thus grouped with Longview – “among the wealthiest and poorest cities that just happen to be about the same size.”
It is “the strategy of ‘poorer’ cities,” writes Arbeeny, “to compare their employee salaries with those listed in AWC (Association of Washington Cities) and push to have them raised towards the ‘average for all the cities.”
“This is a vicious cycle and results in cities chasing the average ever upwards without regard to the most important, yet ignored determinant of salaries – not population, but rather the economic health of that population: household income (HHI) in that city.”
Arbeeny then uses Bellevue as an example.
“Bellevue is #1 in HHI ($62,338) while Lakewood #13 ($36,422) – quite a difference. Yet take a look at what they pay an Administrative Assistant (AA): Bellevue $60,372 and Lakewood $50,976. The average across all 17 west side cities is $52,512. So Lakewood now can claim its AA’s are underpaid compared to the average salary across all west side cities and this, though true, is irrelevant. For whereas a Bellevue AA is paid 97% of their HHI, the Lakewood AA is paid 140% of its HHI! Indeed the average across all 17 cities for AA salary is only117% of the average HHI. Clearly Lakewood AA’s, and a host of other employee positions are far above average for the community they are supposed to be serving. If in fact Lakewood was paying the average AA salary with respect to Lakewood’s HHI it would be $42,413, $8,563 less than currently.”
The argument that Carlson raises – that many of Lakewood’s employees are leaving to work elsewhere because they are underpaid, “a mass exodus” that Wachter questioned while at the same time referencing the actually higher salaries Lakewood employees receive – Arbeeny addressed four years ago.
“The other fallacious argument for these high salaries is that Lakewood would lose out to cities that pay higher than they do. The question that begs asking is if these other cities have such an advantage salary wise why would they ever have any vacancies to draw away Lakewood talent? Additionally there is also the matter of the cost of living of these cities which gobbles up any apparent salary increase. An AA living and working in Bellevue for $60,000-plus has less spending power than an AA living and working in Lakewood making $50,000! One might argue that an AA living in Lakewood could go to work in Bellevue for the higher salary but that does not take into account a three hour daily commute and other expenses associated with working in Bellevue.
“Until city (state and federal) governments tie their salaries to the communities they are supposed to serve, we will have an institutionalized system that serves only government employees.”