Last year, while City Manager Curt Walton was slicing and dicing the city's budget, the city continued to dole out merit bonuses to employees. Of course, Walton's rethinking next year's bonuses. Next year, when economists predict the worst will be over and the economy will start to heal itself.
One bonus program Walton wants to keep, though, called "gainsharing," rewards employees for saving the city money when they beat out private sector contractors during the bidding process for work. Nice.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Walton, who already earns more than $200,000, received a $16,000 bonus some time during the bonus cycle, which started last July and ended last month.
While two Democratic councilmen say they wish the bonuses had not been paid, John Lassiter, a Republican councilman who is running for Mayor, supports the decision to pay bonuses -- despite the economy's fast spiral down the drain. He also points to the city government's hiring freeze and lack of layoffs.
The city council, by the way, sets Walton's pay rate.
UNC professor Willow Jacobson also supports the city's decision saying that withholding the merit bonuses, which are optional, might affect morale and productivity.
Of course, the city government isn't the only local government allowing officials to cash in during the worst economy our nation has experienced in decades. Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones received a bonus of more than $38,000, even though he already makes $215,655 per year.
It's one thing to reward employees for working hard and saving the city money. It's an entirely different thing to pay government officials bonuses that amount to more than many Charlotte citizens bring home for an entire year (per capita).
Whatever happened to employee of the month certificates and good old fashioned pats on the back? When did it become OK to enrich so-called civil servants on the citizen's hard earned dime?
I don't know about you, but I'd rather see that bonus money directed to the school system or to garbage collectors or to other city employees who are the true backbone of our community.
Read more about city bonuses at Charlotte.com.
Here's a clip from May 2008, when the City Council made the news for wanting to give themselves a 27 percent pay raise. While Susan Burgess appears to be all in favor of the pay hike, Lassiter says the council doesn't serve for the money. (Coulda fooled us.):