High on the Saddle

December 7, 2009

Tucked discretely into the last piece of business on the Town COWncil’s October 27th Agenda, just before it’s month-long break, and buried in the First Quarterly Budget and Work Plan Review, Town Manager Susan George granted $1,000 bonuses to most people on the Town staff.

Apparently, the current economic state and the fact that Town revenue is down because of both falling sales tax and development fees, “doesn’t give [Susan] cause for concern.” She said that they would know more at mid-year, and that the budget was based on conservative assumptions. She explained her optimism on the experience a few years ago when sales tax also looked low at this point of the budget cycle, but then ended up being $100,000 higher than the year before. Of course, we don’t remember an enormous nationwide recession and state budget crisis of this magnitude a few years ago, but perhaps the Town Manager does? Anyway, we hope she is correct in her projections.

The Town compares its salaries to Hillsborough, Los Altos Hills and several other communities which are similar in size and affluence to Woodside. We are not sure how comparable these other communities really are since Hillsborough has a staff of 115 employees including police and Woodside has only 25 full and part time employees. Other communities chose not to increase their salaries this year, so neither did Woodside, except for the positions of Town Clerk and Assistant Town Manager. Both of these positions are purportedly underpaid by almost 25%. The salary range for these positions was adjusted with a possible increase of around 22% in the pay range allowing actual increases which can be reached on a “meritorious basis.” We are shocked to learn that these pay ranges were so out of line. Our Town Clerk does an outstanding job and her raises should have been kept competitive over the years. And, we wonder why the salary for the Assistant Town Manager (a great asset) was not properly set before he was hired. We also wonder if his duties are similar to the Assistant City Manager in those towns used for comparison.

According to the Susan, this was the first time in 17 years that the Town didn’t across-the-board increases. Therefore, she wanted to do a one-time $1,000 dollar bonus (pro-rated if a staff member hadn’t been employed for the full year) to all staff. Bonuses have the advantage of not permanently increasing the salary so if revenue does not improve next year, the base salary will have remained the same as last year. Also an increase in salary means a permanent increase in retirement contributions while a bonus does not. There was one similar bonus type payment granted in fiscal 2004-05.

It is noteworthy that the City Manager herself received another pay raise this year bringing her salary to $196,000. This amount does not include her annual bonus of $12,500 for a total of $208,500! We would like to see the comparable salaries for her position. It is also noteworthy that as we understand it, 9 of the 25 employees will earn more then $100,000 this year. We would appreciate a correction if our information is inaccurate. COWncil member Dave Burow dug a bit into the step increases, but none of the COWncil members really asked about the $1,000 bonuses. After the COWncil approved the budget resolution, Susan reported how pleased she is with the current staff makeup, calling it the most collaborative staff she’s ever worked with, and hard working as well. We have to say that we have seen an improvement since the days of Hope Sullivan and Kent Dewell.

We want our staff to be the best and we want them fairly compensated. There is no excuse for underpaying those who work hard on our behalf. What we really need to know is, based on true comparables, are our employees appropriately compensated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *