Some of the biggest concerns in Omaha revolve around the fact that the city is facing a large budget deficit that may be worsened by looming shortfalls in pensions. Proposals for closing the gap, not surprisingly, have centered on raising taxes (property and sales) and fees (esp. garbage collection).
At the same time, the new mayor’s staff, such as the secretary and city planner, are enjoying pay raises in the 25-30% range. One of the Mayor’s spokesmen pointed out that the secretary is now the office manager, so the responsibilities are greater. Other than that, the mayor believes the substantial raises are demanded by his commitment to hiring the best people available for the jobs. These people will help the city government be more efficient and thus save the city money in the long run.
So apparently the previous Mayor settled for mediocrity in his administration. Well, that might help explain a few things. Still, it takes the kind of guts only a politician has to argue that more higher paid government employees will save the city money while the private sector is cutting hours or cutting jobs entirely in order to stay afloat during this recession.
UPDATE: In looking at the numbers again, the raises are a bit higher on a percentage basis than I originally wrote, e.g., 144k to ~185k, or 93k to ~125k. The spokesman’s lines are even better, too. He suggested different administrations should be compared like different businesses, so you can’t just compare the same position in two different administrations. And they’re not just hiring bodies, they’re hiring the most qualified people available. So in other words, until now the city administration has been filled by who knows what kind of people, but NOW the best and the brightest are on deck to set Omaha on a new path to economic and political soundness. I’m so relieved.