Split City Council approves first COLA hikes in three years
December 07, 2011 4:59 PM
Brooke Edwards Staggs, City Editor

VICTORVILLE • The Victorville City Council approved 3 percent pay raises for all employees starting Jan. 1, with Councilwoman Angela Valles protesting the perk in light of the city’s rocky finances.

“After three years of layoffs and defaulting on debt service obligations and needing police and fire and roads, I just can’t justify raises at this time,” Valles said during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The rest of the City Council defended the cost-of-living salary hikes, with Councilman Jim Kennedy first to say they were deserved after staff helped slash Victorville’s deficit from a high of $14 million in 2009.

“My gosh, giving them a small reward for that does not seem unreasonable to me,” Kennedy said.

Mayor Ryan McEachron and Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Cabriales agreed, with Councilman Mike Rothschild adding, “We’re at a point now where we can give a little bit back.”

The raises will cost Victorville $358,144 this year, a staff report states, with $166,627 coming out of the city’s general fund and the other $191,517 coming out of “other funds.”

When Valles asked City Manager Doug Robertson to identify those other funds, he said it could be from “hundreds if not thousands” of available sources, including redevelopment, airport or water funds.

Adelanto approved a 3 percent cost-of-living increase effective July 1. However, the raise only impacted non-management employees, City Manager Jim Hart said.

Apple Valley has frozen salaries for all employees since July 2008, while Hesperia’s last cost-of-living raise was July 2009. Only employees who were promoted or have changed positions have received raises since that time.

Victorville has lost one-third of its staff over the last three years through layoffs, retirements and resignations, as staff has grappled with pay cuts, demotions and drops to benefits. The city is down from 16 or 17 department heads to two, Robertson said, with remaining workers doing “more for less.”

Less than two weeks before the vote, Victorville notified bondholders that it was $7.5 million short on a debt payment due Dec. 1. The payment was made using funds borrowed out of a trust account, with the city counting on a change in state legislation to repay that loan.

Brooke Edwards Staggs may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.

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