By TOM GANTERT
Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly’s message to the city’s residents in the 2011 budget was they’d have to pay higher taxes due to severe budget issues. Yet, a look at gross income shows that the top city administrators saw lucrative pay increases while many lower-paid Dearborn employees took pay cuts in 2011.
While O’Reilly’s salary stayed relatively the same — his gross income increased by $500 in 2011 from the previous year, seven top administrations saw their gross income increase by 8 percent to 12.8 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Those pay increases came when the city’s General Fund had a structural budget deficit of $8.6 million for fiscal year 2011. Not all of the city of Dearborn’s workers were as fortunate.
For example, all three assistant librarians made less in 2011 than they did in 2010. Three of the city’s four attorneys made less in 2011 than in 2010.
“When they’re pushing tax hikes, residents hear a lot from local government officials about ‘shared sacrifice,’” said Jack McHugh, the legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “These figures give the appearance that the sharing stops at the City Hall door.”
Some of the city’s key officials saw considerable boosts in pay:
• The Director of Economic and Community Develop saw his gross pay increase from $95,667 in 2010 to $104,509 in 2011, a 9.2 percent increase.
• The Director of Finance saw his gross pay increase from $107,912 in 2010 to $116,624 in 2011, an 8 percent increase.
• The Director of the Information Systems Department saw his gross pay increase from $102,491 in 2010 to $113,994 in 2011, an 11.2 percent increase.
• The Director of Public Information saw her gross pay increase from $85,886 in 2010 to $96,056 in 2011, an 11.8 percent increase.
• The Director of Public Works saw his gross pay increase from $102,193 in 2010 to $110,612 in 2011, an 8.2 percent increase.
• The Director of Recreation saw his gross pay increase from $94,312 in 2010 to $106,395 in 2011, a 12.8 percent increase.
• The Executive Assistant to the Mayor made $117,899 in 2010 and $131,162 in 2011, a 11.2 percent increase.
Matthew Zalewski, an attorney for the city of Dearborn, said gross earnings included things such as mileage, annual longevity checks (yearly bonuses paid to long-time employees) as well as some employees “selling” vacation days offered in the city’s cafeteria benefit plan.
City of Dearborn employees don’t pay anything for health insurance until later this year. Two unions have filed a lawsuit to prevent Gov. Rick Snyder’s law that required public employers to pay no more than 80 percent of the annual cost of medical benefits from taking effect until their contract with their insurance companies expires at the end of June.
Mary Laundroche, spokeswoman for the city, said the top administrators are appointed positions by the mayor and are not in a union and do not receive overtime. But Laundroche said the annual raises for the appointed positions mirror any increases the union gets. So when those union contracts were settled, retroactive payments were made to the top administrators as well as the union members.
In a June 2011 letter included in the city’s budget, O’Reilly told Dearborn’s citizens, “we know the kinds of sacrifices you’ve made to weather these difficult times in your own households. Like you we’re continuing to seek cutbacks including personal sacrifices from the entire City workforce.”
O’Reilly then stated the city was raising the millage rate to the legal limit and would ask to raise that limit by putting it on the November 2011 ballot.
(Tom Gantert is senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland.)