Commentary: Tacoma has tough salary adjustments to make

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

The City of Tacoma’s effort to rejigger its pay scales is cursed by bad timing.

When city officials began the process to align pay and benefits with other private and public employers three years ago, they couldn't have possibly guessed what would await them in November 2008.

Yet here we are, with the country's economy on its knees, the state facing its biggest shortfall ever and Tacoma getting ready to dole out pay raises of up to 15 percent for nonunion employees. The juxtaposition doesn't do much for folks convinced their city government is hopelessly out of touch.

Many Washington workers will be asked to make do with no increase in pay this year – that is, if they are able to hang on to their jobs. Then there are the many Tacoma residents living below the poverty line or within spitting distance of it, for whom city salaries seem like princely sums in any economy.

City employees can argue, with some justification, that they are due. When times were good, they accepted 1 percent raises with the promise that the salary survey would right any inequities.

But that doesn't make the first glimpse at the new pay scale any less jarring for taxpayers, who are told that the city has the money to boost pay even as it makes plans to draw down city reserves to their lowest allowable amount.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.