Mayor warns of budget veto

Mayor Paul Cusick warned Bellevue Council Tuesday evening that he will veto any 2018 budget that allows less of a salary increase for administrative employees than for union workers.

Contract employees – including public works laborers, fire department workers and police officers – are paid under terms negotiated as part of their individual union contracts. Council annually sets the salaries for non-contract employees, which include administrative, library and code enforcement staff.

Cusick’s proposed budget for 2018 included 2.5 percent salary increases for non-contract employees, comparable to what union workers will receive in the coming year. At a budget meeting Monday night, however, council agreed on an increase of only 2 percent, Cusick said.

The mayor told council that this is part of a continuous pattern of unequal treatment of administrative employees, who he said were primarily female and among the lowest paid workers in the borough. Council has repeatedly limited their salary increases, and called on the non-contract employees to contribute more to their health insurance cost than is required of those covered by a union contract.

At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, council member Grant Saylor blamed the difference in salary and benefits on “binding arbitration,” which allows an independent party to set the terms of a union contract. Cusick pointed out, however, that the public works contract is not subject to binding arbitration, and laborers are still compensated in line with the other unions’ contract.

Council members Kathy Coder and Tom Fodi said that salary increases for administrative staff are supposed to be based on performance evaluations by their supervisors, and that council had not received “adequate” evaluations of the employees. Fodi said that it appeared the evaluations were “carbon copies” of those submitted in past years.

Cusick argued that it is possible an employee’s evaluation might not change from year to year, but even so, he said, the responsibility falls on the supervisor, and should not impact the treatment of the employees.

Bellevue Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on Monday, Dec. 11.