Journal Times editorial: City Council should rein in Friedel's raise

Journal Times editorial: City Council should rein in Friedel's raise

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Somehow we must have missed the news release that the city of Racine is flush with fresh money.

While it has been squeezing salaries and benefits for many municipal employees, Mayor John Dickert is proposing a whopping 31 percent pay increase over two years for City Administrator John Friedel.

Under the mayor’s proposal, Friedel’s current annual salary of $99,237 would be bumped up to $115,000 on July 13 and then boosted again to $130,000 in July 2016.

In Dickert’s pitch to the Finance and Personnel Committee, he said the increases were necessary to put Friedel’s salary in line with city administrators in similar communities and to make it more competitive.

Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney told the committee, “This is the market that the City of Racine is going to be in when the time comes to replace Tom. Under the circumstances, from a human resources perspective, for the City of Racine to be seriously considered by candidates in the future, we need to get a salary somewhere closer to what the market is paying.”

We would submit that the city can cross that bridge when it comes to it.

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The fact is that Friedel’s salary is lower than that of two of his predecessors – Steve Neonen, who was paid $121,557 in 2006, and Ben Hughes, who was paid $115,273 when he resigned in 2009.

But the fact is, too, that both of them had a background in city management, while Friedel did not when he accepted the job in 2009 at a starting salary of $95,000. Friedel did have experience as a business executive, alderman and school board member.

No doubt he has grown on the job, but, in our view that doesn’t justify a double-bump in pay of this magnitude, particularly given the city’s tighter than tight budgets of the past several years. Non-union represented employees haven’t had a raise in the past three years and the city’s police union has already weighed in against the pay boost, calling it an “extraordinary increase” and said Dickert’s proposal has “inspired a great deal of frustration amongst the men and women who risk their lives to keep our community safe.”

This is definitely not a city employee morale builder.

The fact is, too, that when we look around at the pay of elected officials, the city administrator’s salary doesn’t seem that far off. The mayor’s salary is $74,110 and the pay for the Racine County Executive is $102,912. Of course, they don’t have to have a background in city management – but neither does Friedel.

If the city has to replace Friedel, it may well be it has to boost the pay range for the position. But, as we said, it can deal with that when the time comes.

In the meantime, we would urge the City Council to dial this pay boost back a bit.

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