Michigan's executive branch, whether it was the governor or the DHHS director, has kept many businesses in the state closed for much of the last year, or operating at a greatly reduced degree. More than 1,023,000 workers in Michigan (more than 1/4) lost their job during a two-month span between February and April. Only 633,000 have gotten their jobs back.
Meanwhile, many state and local employees have went on furloughs or worked from home, often qualifying for and enjoying additional benefits beyond their normal paycheck. Many private businesses can not make that transition due to the nature of their business, nor can they enjoy receiving the guaranteed normal income and all the fringe benefits that the public sector is receiving during these hard times.
Michigan Capitol Confidential has been doing a series looking at various public groups thriving during this pandemic, such as Rochester Schools in Oakland County, where the superintendent and his two assistants received raises over 9% between the last two school years. The City of Grand Rapids saw a lot of double digit percent increases come into play during 2020, including a fire inspector whose salary jumped up over 50%.
When Ludington leaders considered the budget for 2021, they were making their decisions last fall after about six months of Covid-19 shutdowns which has proved catastrophic or even fatal for many businesses in the city. They had six months of reduced work loads, working from home, working less hours per day, less days per week. If they were listening to the scientists, they should have known there would be at least six more months of partial shutdowns. The 2021 budget reflects that uncertainty; the DDA has budgeted no expenses or revenues for the various events they have throughout the year.
Despite that uncertainty and despite local businesses being on the brink of the abyss, city leaders crafted a budget that ambitiously raises many salaries and fringe benefits over the prior year-- despite that year being a year where they were able to work at 75, 50, or 25 percent without the public noticing the difference-- and will likely be able to do the same in 2021.
The summary of the budget indicates that the fringe benefits level of most employees rose from 70% of normal wages to 74% (a level unheard of in the private sector) due to higher costs of health insurance. Most regular union employees saw a 3% raise in their salary.
These modest increases do not account for the gigantic pay rate increases enjoyed by all city departments in the city. Neither does the budget summary account for the vastly inflated rates of two city department's salaries, especially the one that tripled. We will look at the salary increases from lowest to highest as found in the 2021 budget. We leave out the Treasurer Department, which increased by less than 1% due to a change of treasurer allowing them to reduce that wage, and the police and fire departments which are a bit more complex. The other elected department head, the city clerk and her aides, was the next lowest:
Total remuneration 2020: $250,100, 2021: $260,500 Increase: 4.2%
Total remuneration 2020: $695,600, 2021: $717,300 Increase: 4.6%
Total remuneration 2020: $322,900, 2021: $370,800 Increase: 5.5%
Total remuneration 2020: $147,900, 2021: $156,100 Increase: 5.5%
Total remuneration 2020: $463,500, 2021: $491,800 Increase: 6.1%
Total remuneration 2020: $272,400, 2021: $290,600 Increase: 6.7%
Total remuneration 2020: $305,300, 2021: $326,200 Increase: 6.8%
Total remuneration 2020: $92,800, 2021: $99,600 Increase: 7.3%
Total remuneration 2020: $178,400, 2021: $192,100 Increase: 7.7%
Total remuneration 2020: $141,100, 2021: $152,800 Increase: 8.3%
An 8.3% rise in salary is pretty good in the midst of a pandemic, even when you deal with wastewater all day, but all of the following departments received pay bonuses over 12%. It starts with the Cartier Park caretaker, somebody who will earn just under $100,000 in 2021 for enduring campers for the summer-- if camping is allowed.
Total remuneration 2020: $86,900, 2021: $97,400 Increase: 12.1%
The DPW will grow its salaries by nearly 15% even though they got much of the summer off for doing the usual events and look to have another summer of sloth for 2021:
Total remuneration 2020: $322,900, 2021: $370,800 Increase: 14.8%
It appears the assessor may have had a pay cut, but then it looks as if they hired a building inspector without going through the process of creating the office. Whatever is happening, the department's wage expenses go up nearly 40%:
Total remuneration 2020: $134,400, 2021: $186,200 Increase: 39%
That 39% increase is less than a sixth of the increase that is happening in the rental inspection department, this also seems to be indicative of a full-time rental inspector being hired without council approval.
Total remuneration 2020: $16,500, 2021: $55,600 Increase: 237%
When the City of Ludington started rental inspections the program was supposed to be revenue neutral-- what happened? The revenue sheet shows that somehow they expect to bring in about 30 times what they had received through July 2020 from rental inspection contributions in 2021, but that's not explained or is it very likely if the state continues with pandemic policies.
It is immoral and amoral to create a budget that raises the pay rates of city officials and employees while they work hand-in-hand in obstructing private businesses from operating at a safe capacity of their own choosing. These entrepreneurs took an acceptable risk when they started their business, why should a greedy government that forgets where their paycheck money comes from set those risks differently.
Your welcome. The major jumps for the last two departments noted (assessing and rental inspecting) seems to be due to the hiring of a building/rental inspector late last year discussed in a September 2020 Finance & Personnel Committee meeting and apparently finalized by the end of October. The problem is that the Ludington Building Inspector's office was eliminated in the passage of the 2010 budget and their duties have been done by independent contractors ever since.
As you may know, the creation or reinstatement of a city office must be done through the ordinance procedure, as stated in the city charter section 10.8. I am getting additional information on this appointment, but it is clear that the office created was never brought before the council; this office was administratively created and all of the additional costs of that act were shouldered by taxpayers without their knowledge of those unlawful machinations. This is almost as outrageous as a 237% raise in a department's wages.
So there is no input from the citizenry about a budget jump this outrageous?
I am wondering X if there is a way that a legal request can be made by you and or a lawyer to ask for an open meeting to have a vote on this issue by the citizens of Ludington? It appears they are fast tracking all of this before anyone can catch on. Another question... are they really going to approve budget increased for THREE years? I do believe the town needs to know about this ASAP and demand an open meeting so the Mayor, the CC and the boy town manager can at the very least, explain themselves. Of course the Ludington Snooze is silent on this as well...
A short term real estate boom is not going to sustain the city long term. A big recession is on its way and it is going to make the Obama years look like child's play. Part of the Obama third term and his great reset is to destroy the middle class. The middle class has always been the heart and soul of Ludington . Without it, it becomes another city of the Uber rich and the low income ,food pantry, drug class.
In the COL's defense, the heading to the proposed and passed budget did notice a 3% or 4% raise for most employees, though none of the local media noticed this aspect. Few also consider that when they get such a raise and their fringe benefits move up to 74% of their wages, these 3-4% raises become 5-7% raises. Councilor Serna and myself made it known at these meetings that such raises were unconscionable in such a year, to no effect.
I will not go against three year budget projections, because I believe the COL offers these to show their future intentions, and that the projections can be changed if warranted by unforeseen occurrences. Nobody foresaw 2020 and the devastation it has wreaked on innocent businesses and individuals in the community, this was an ideal time to show that city hall was not tone deaf-- but they all failed.
The giant increases in the last two departments showing that the City violated the city charter in hiring a full-time housing inspector is what frosts my windows. How dare they covertly and illegally hire a new and unnecessary official when the community is hurting.
Another excellent article X. Not much has changed in how City Hall does business. As I said before the voters keep electing these kind of representatives so until there is a vaccine for "ignōrāns" we can expect this to continue.
Willy, isn't the real name "ignoramous"??? Also, no known vaccine exists yet, for many decades too imho, at least in Ludville, not lol now either.
Aquaman! Ignoramous works perfectly also. What I used is the Latin word to describe them. A dead language seems more of a fit to describe those that refuse to seek the truth.