Councilman King: ‘My perspective on PTC pay raise’

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Now that Peachtree City Council members have had more than ample opportunity to get answers to probing questions on the pay raise study, and now that Council is moving on to other matters, I would like to share my perspective.

To those unhappy with my vote on the pay study and pay raise issue; I have heard your disagreement clearly. I have also heard from roughly an equal number in support of my vote. The troubling part to me is that misconceptions and wrong assumptions linger. While every one of us is entitled to our opinion, none of us are entitled to create our own facts.

For example, the allegation that our city manager subverted the council is completely false. The fact is the council requested in January of this year that Dr. Pennington initiate a complete review of city employee compensation. Our employees have endured near-zero pay increases over the past five years while the city struggled with a recessionary budget.

Not only was it past time to re-evaluate the pay structure as a matter of fair treatment of employees, but there was a matter of employee trust and morale involved from a prior pay study that had been shelved under a tight budget squeeze.

That is why council asked Dr. Pennington to involve employees in arranging the study. Contrary to public chatter, employees did not control or make any decisions on the study parameters or selecting the contractor; they merely had a little input as council requested. If you believe that was wrong, blame council.

When the study was done, the few employees involved were able to make a non-binding recommendation to council which we were able to consider along with other factors.

One thing that I do regret is that some comments made by city employees during the council workshop were out of bounds. We as council members should do a better job in controlling future meetings.

One argument is that council needed more time to make an informed decision. I disagree because council had the study and related recommendations for three weeks prior to making the decision. Having observed firsthand the accomplishments of our city employees over the past year, I saw no reason delay what needed to be done some time ago.

Those are the misunderstandings I wanted to clarify. I realize some of you will still disagree with my decision and I accept that. My vote was a decision on what I believe was the right thing to do, not the easy or popular thing to do, not just for city employees, but for voters and taxpayers as well.

Some still question that since we have not yet worked out how to pay for the pay raise long term, that will be coming soon, and while I can only speak for myself, employee headcount reductions where possible is one alternative.

City employees do not have any guarantee of a job, and we should try our best to have a lean work force, but we also have a duty to fairly compensate the employees we keep both as a matter of equity and in order to attract, retain and motivate a quality work force.

Over the past five years city employees have endured disappointment annually when pay raises would normally be forthcoming. And yet they have done outstanding work that should make citizens proud of them, just ask any of the numerous benefactors of the lifesaving actions of our Fire/EMT professionals.

Our police department has maintained national certification for as long as I can remember, and please note they are now patrolling cart paths on a regular basis without a single addition to the force.

Many others have done fine work in public works, leisure services, convention and visitors bureau, and even financial control that helped the fiscal year 2014 deliver a result over two million dollars under budget.

I know there are some who want to argue this forever and point fingers at flaws in the pay study. I realize good people can disagree, and while I respect differing opinions, I am content that my decision was the right thing to do for both the people and the employees of Peachtree City.

In the next election, if I am running, I encourage you to ask yourself whether you want to vote for someone who will always agree with you or someone who will stand up when it is not easy to do the right thing and take the heat. I will be perfectly happy to live with the result.

Michael L King
City Council Post 2
Peachtree City, Ga.