By Tommy Smigiel
There are a lot of healthy discussions happening within the City of Norfolk right now. I call it healthy, but some might look at it as just more controversy. However you might feel, I am happy that more citizens are getting engaged. We need citizens involved in their government. The council will take up two issues dealing with our city employees this week which is causing some buzz and misinformation to be spread.
First, I want to say THANK YOU to all of our city employees and the work they do each day. I was happy to be endorsed by our city employees last winter and I am continuing to bring their issues and concerns to the attention of the City Manager’s office. It is important to note however, that it is not my place to meddle in individual personnel issues. One of my roles as a council member is to ask questions, raise concerns, or make recommendation on policy. If an individual employee contacts me about being treated unfairly by a department head, there really isn’t much I can do. However, I successfully suggested new policy for an anonymous fraud, waste and abuse hotline (664-4003) for our citizens and employees to call. Our City Manager is responsible for that side of our city government and I believe Marcus Jones will work to repair relationship issues that occurred before his arrival. We need to give him a chance to reform our government. In his effort to “right-size” our city government, Marcus presented two proposals to City Council last week. Both of these items are on the docket this week for a formal vote. I am presenting them in reverse order.
The first proposal (R-7) is to offer retirement incentives to employees who are eligible to retire, but were planning on sticking around for a few more years. The retirement incentive is $10,000 in one lump sum, or $5,000 in one lump sum with payment of single health care for 12 months. No city employees are being forced to take this option. There is additional information in the “right-size” presentation to explain what other cities in Hampton Roads have offered their employees.
The second proposal (R-1) is to allow the City Manager to offer separation “severance” packages to both classified and unclassified employees. The proposal will give 1 month of salary for any employee who has worked for the city for 1-2 years, 2 months salary for any employee who has worked for the city for more than two years and less than five years, and 3 months salary for those with 5 or more years of city employment. This package will not be given to an employee who chooses to retire and uses the retirement incentive. This will mainly be given to employees who are part of the Reduction in Force (RIF), that will be suggested in the 2012 budget. Once again, there is additional information in the presentation. For city employees reading this post, please know that City Council has not seen any proposals for who will be affected by the RIF implementation. In addition, we have not seen any proposals for the elimination of departments.
It is unfortunate that Norfolk is in a situation that these even have to be proposed. With a $32 million shortfall, Marcus has his hands full with trying to present council a balanced budget. I believe it is important that he has the tools needed to get things together. I have some opinions on why Norfolk has this shortfall, but I will stay away from campaign mode. Hopefully, a lesson has been learned about how Norfolk spends taxpayer’s dollars and I believe Marcus is the right person to lead that change.
Here are two additional presentations shown to council last week:
Later this week, I going to work on a discussion about apartments in Norfolk. Click the apartment link to read the article highlighted in today’s Virginian-Pilot.