Raising salaries raises eyebrows - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Raising salaries raises eyebrows

by Bryan Goettel

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Cedar Rapids has a new budget that includes thousands in raises for workers, but the city is also expecting an increase in revenue.

Wednesday night the city council approved raises for the city's human resources director, community development director, and utilities director -- adding up to $26,000.

A lot of revenue is expected to come from a flood-fund, and the local option sales tax.

Between the struggling economy and the aftermath of the flood, when the word "raise" comes up, it tends to raise eyebrows. And the latest approved pay increase for Cedar Rapids city workers has some calling it the wrong move.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jim Prosser knew there would be fallout.

"We have to make the right decisions even when those decisions are politically unpopular," said Prosser.

With that in mind, Prosser still feels raises are needed for three city department head positions.

"Our view is that we need to run a business," said Prosser. "We need to make sure to keep all positions really maintain competitive wages."

He even went so far to say the council could take the money out of his own salary to pay them.

"That to me sounds like a much better plan than spending my tax dollars," said Cedar Rapids resident Ray Erlacher.

Erlacher is both a victim of the flood and the bad economy. His house was badly damaged last June and he lost his job in October.

"Well, I'm just appalled by it," said Erlacher. "I don't see how you can afford to be paying people more money right now with this economic downturn and all the problems were having with all the flood victims not being in their homes yet."

"There's just too many people losing their jobs and these higher-ups are just getting richer and richer and that's not the way it should be," said Esther Miceli, of Cedar Rapids. 

Jerry McGrane is one of three council members to vote against the raises.

"To me it's sort of stepping on people," said McGrane. "I understand we have to have the raises, but at the same time maybe we can just buckle up for another year until the people get back in their homes."

Prosser says there's always financial pressure. But this decision is simply a matter of doing what's best for positions that are an important part of the city's flood recovery.

"It's a critical time for this business and it's going to be a critical time for the next five to ten years and so we're going to continue to look at ways to make sure we can deliver those services," said Prosser.

And as Cedar Rapids continues to recover from the flood while dealing with a struggling economy, the struggle among city leaders to determine whether raises are necessary is one likely to be around for some time.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel


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