Let’s take a hard look at city employee costs

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Fire Chief (Dave) Whitt has suggested the city needs an additional 20 firefighters to be staffed appropriately. At a cost per man of $150,000 per year in salary and benefits, how do we do that? Councilman (Paul) Joiner says we need more police officers on the street to provide adequate support and back-up. How do we accomplish that at a cost of $140,000 for each police officer? The allocated salary and benefit cost of city manager and administrative service employees, not including the city manager and assistant city manager, is $140,000. The cost of library employees is $120,000, excluding the director of library services; and the cost of recreation employees, excluding the assistant manager, is $110,000. Nobody likes to talk about reducing salaries and benefits for city employees. It’s a hard conversation to have. We all know that. But, as a former police officer and now a successful business owner for more than 20 years, I must tell you this is a conversation we need to have. Our city’s labor costs are completely inappropriate. And, if we are going to continue to grow and prosper as a community, we are going to have to take decisive action to correct it. As a business owner, I know the best answer for any “organization” is always more revenue. And, as a group of concerned citizens, TEAM Lincoln, of which I am a member, has no problem paying taxes for both legitimate and necessary city services. But, as taxpayers, we refuse to be looked upon as a “blank check” by city employees in exchange for services they provide. City employees need to realize the jobs they have, the functions they perform, do not belong to them. They “serve at the pleasure” of the citizenry. We sincerely hope they incorporate this operating principle into their thinking as they continue their salary and benefit discussions with management. Chuck Schmidt, Lincoln