PORT RICHEY — With changes in pension contributions leading to less take-home pay, council members are eyeing the possibility of giving employees the first citywide raise in three years.
At a meeting last month, council member Terry Rowe proposed a 3 percent pay hike, to offset the amount that government employees must start contributing to the Florida Retirement System. He noted city employees have not gotten a raise since a 2 percent bump in October 2009.
"We've got people in the city making $8.66 an hour," Rowe said before the May 24 vote. "I want to see anybody raise a family on that and lose 3 percent."
That motion lost in a 4-1 vote. Still, Mayor Richard Rober and council members Bill Colombo and Steve O'Neill said they wanted to look at giving some kind of citywide raise during planning sessions this summer for next year's budget.
While pay has remained flat for many, records show a handful of employees have received substantial raises since 2009.
Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown received a 22 percent raise in February. The City Council approved bringing his salary up to $67,283 for taking on the role of acting city manager after Ellen Posivach was fired.
Officials say other employees saw substantial raises because they took on extra duties, received promotions, or fell under a 2008 city-commissioned study that found some Port Richey employees were underpaid compared to workers in similar cities.
For example, the salary of city utilities and public works manager Pat Stewart has increased from $38,112 in 2008 to $54,494 now, according to city records. He received a 26 percent raise after a promotion in May 2009 to manager, and received another 5 percent hike in January, according to Port Richey finance director Pam Ziegler.
The city's deputy clerk Tammy Schuck also received a raise in April 2010 of 18 percent after coming over from police dispatch to work in the city clerk's office, Brown said. She received another raise two months later of 7 percent, then another in February of 11 percent, bringing her total pay to $35,360.
Ziegler said she received her own raise after the 2008 study found her underpaid compared to other cities. She received a raise in November 2010 of 12 percent, and another 6 percent raise in January, bringing her total pay to $50,232.
It's unclear why their raises came in increments, since they were doled out by Posivach before she left the city.
Brown said most of the raises were approved by Posivach before she was fired, so they fell under the purview of the former city manager.
"All I know about is my $1,000 a month (increase) the council approved when I took over as acting manager," he said.
During recent tough budget times with fewer people on staff with expertise in certain areas, some took on much more responsibility, according to Ziegler.
"We are all wearing so many multiple hats here it's ridiculous," she said.
Council members were unfazed by these raises, agreeing that employees' duties have increased.
"It's my understanding that certain employees have been taking on substantially more work," Colombo said.
Rowe declined to comment on the raises, saying they were up to the city manager, not the council. He said his drive in the coming months will be to get raises for workers on a lower salary rung through a citywide pay increase, which can be approved by the council.
"No matter what I may think about them, it's out of my hands," Rowe said of the individual raises some have received.
Council member Nancy Britton said she is conducting a review of employees' raises and plans to address her finding, should another discussion arise on a possible citywide raise.
O'Neill could not be reached for comment.
During the May 24 council discussion, Rober described a city with the bulk of its employees making less money than their peers in similar cities.
"I don't think Port Richey has ever abused the privilege of providing a high order of compensation to its men and women," he told the council. "If anything, we are behind the curve on a lot."