A former colleague asked me if I had done anything on the blog about the Columbia city employee pay raises. Come to think of it, I had not. Here’s the story in The State he was referring to.
I don’t know about you, but I had trouble sorting through all the numbers in the story — which is why I didn’t post when I first tried to read it. I found it confusing. I had trouble finding the one figure I wanted most, the one I could hang my hat on: The average percentage increases each year. You tell me they were getting raises of 10 percent, and I get upset. If it’s more like 2 percent, I’m just jealous.
You can sort of guess at averages, but I couldn’t quite arrive with the available data. For instance, we’re told that between 2004 and 2009:
The number of employees making more than $50k rose from 172 to 412.
Employees making more than $50,000 a year had a combined total of $5,078,016 in raises.
OK, I don’t know how many there were over $50k in each year, but we can perhaps say that those 412 employees had a combined total of $5,078,016 in raises over five years (I think it’s saying that, but I’m not quite sure — how do you read it?). So if I’ve got those numbers right, they received an average of about $12,325 in increases over the period, or about $2,465 a year. An employee making $60k a year who got that much got a 4 percent raise. An employee making $120k receiving a $2,465 raise in one year got an increase of about 2 percent. Which is better than I got in my last couple of years at the paper, but not wildly out of line. But it’s at least debatable for anyone to get a 2- 4-percent raise in hard times.
Trouble is, one gets the impression that guesstimates of average percentages don’t mean much here, because some people got WAY more than that. And that’s the hardest, and most eye-opening, information in the story, to wit:
Valerie Smith, whose annual pay grew to $79,000, about a $26,000 increase, with a promotion from executive assistant to office manager, where she supervised five people.- Shirley Dilbert, whose annual pay grew to $60,000, about a $24,000 increase, with a promotion from executive assistant to the city manager to public services coordinator.
– Starr Hockett, whose annual pay grew to $56,000, about a $13,000 increase, with a promotion to administrative fiscal resources coordinator.
– Libby Gober, whose annual pay grew to $77,000, about a $23,000 increase, with a promotion to administrative liaison to City Council.
– Gantt, whose annual pay grew to $135,000, about a $22,000 increase, with a promotion to bureau chief of operations. (Gantt now is interim city manager.)
… and so on. Those are the facts that really jump out.
I don’t know anything about those individual cases, and I have no idea to what extent those promotions are meaningful. But it seems unlikely to me that that many people, in a city government with as many problems as this one had, should have gotten raises of those magnitudes.
Thoughts? I would particularly appreciate some analysis from someone who is more adept with figures than I.