One thing has become clear in this persistent cycle of bad budgets at City Hall: the issue of public employee raises always generates strong reactions.
That was the case on Thursday, when I learned that Interim City Manager Gus Vina had granted raises to three department heads. The news was enough for one council member to say she was "really disappointed" by the move.
"The last thing we should be doing right now is giving people raises," Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy told me. "We're laying off frontline people and giving management raises and that's wrong."
Sheedy has asked more than once for a report from Vina's office on management salaries at City Hall. She's also a close ally of the labor groups that represent most of the city workforce.
Vina said the raises were a matter of fairness.
"This is the right thing to do, but there's never a good time to do it," Vina told me.
The largest increase was granted to Finance Director Leyne Milstein, whose salary went from $131,270 to $150,304. Milstein's raise comes "at a time when we've asked her to prepare how many budgets in how many bad years in a row?" Vina said.
"How can we expect the person leading our budget development to work at the rate of $130,000 a year? She's good at what she does, so should we just open the door and show her the way out by not compensating her appropriately?"
Geri Hamby, the head of human resources and labor relations, saw her salary go from $151,402 to $162,000. Hamby was the head of HR and absorbed labor relations under consolidations aimed at saving money. As a result, she's a point person in the city's tense labor negotiations, Vina said.
Also getting a raise was Max Fernandez, the head of the Community Development Department. He went from $164,445 to $172,667.
CDD absorbed code enforcement. It's also a department the city is trying to clean up under Fernandez' watch after a series of building scandals.
The raises were partly offset by one employee's pay cut.
Marty Hanneman, the head of the Department of Utilities, had his salary slashed by $18,610.
Hanneman had been an assistant city manager until former City Manager Ray Kerridge stripped him of that title and put him solely in charge of utilities. When Kerridge made that move, he did not decrease Hanneman's salary of $186,101.