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Debate Rages on Raises for Norwalk Employees

Nora King stands by her defiance: It's not a time to give people in City Hall a raise. "I think (Mayor Richard) Moccia can put any spin he wants on this, but the point is we sat through six weeks of painful and very emotional budget meetings where we were told that we had to cut, cut and cut more by Dick Moccia, Nick Kydes and Doug Hempstead," the Democratic councilwoman said in an email.

King and Moccia got into an argumentative discussion Tuesday night during the Common Council meeting before the vote in favor of allowing a maximum 2.75 percent pay raise for 16 elected, appointed and nonunion officials and clerical staff, based on performance evaluations. It was also possible that the "ordinance" employees would again take five furlough days, as they did last year, but the council voted to reduce the furlough days to two. The vote was along partisan lines, 7-4, with Republican Rick McQuaid abstaining.

King is upset about the raises, in part because of the battle over the school budget. "For some reason we hire this new – very competent -- superintendent of schools, and we can't fund her budget for the first year," she said.

Moccia said the cost of the potential raises was expected to be $11,000. But with the number of furlough days cut, it's "probably around $30,000, out of $288 million budget, and we didn't take any books away from the young kids."

"It doesn't matter if it is 3 dollars or 3 million dollars," King said. "We need to be consistent through the process."

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Marc Bradley also protested the pay raises. "I think that at a time where we're talking about every single line of the budget, the operating budget, the Board of Ed budget, every step of the way we're going to stand up for taxpayers. But here the Republican mayor and the Republican council people are suggesting percentage increases for department heads that are making well over $100,000 a year."

"I think 10 of the 16 people are making substantially less than $100,000," said Jim Haselkamp, Norwalk's director of personnel and labor relations. "This pay plan has six directors in it and the rest of the folks are clerical and general support. Even those people who make $100,000 are making less than the unionized department heads in the city."

"It's interesting, (Bradley) advocated to give more money to the board of ed, that are all making $150,000, God bless them," Moccia said. "Mr. Bradley is a little short with coming up with the truth."

King says the issue shows why Norwalk needs new leadership, a thought Bradley expressed Tuesday. "I hope that as we go through these tough budget times ... we need leadership that's calm, that's poised and that can bring (people) together," he said.

"We need councilwomen that are calm and even handed, too, and follow the council rules," Moccia said.

The mayor will decide who gets a raise. "The council will take the heat, but I'm actually the one who evaluates and gives the raises," he said. "It was 0 to 7 percent several years ago when we were doing better. This year I don't have much of a range. ... I'll be doing the evaluations in the next couple of days."

He specifically mentioned Jeffry Spahr, deputy corporation counsel, as someone he'd like to give a bigger raise because Spahr "has won a couple of lawsuits over there."

"Of course I want a raise, I went two years without one," Spahr said.

He said the ordinance employees have been more than fair. "Two years ago, we said at the outset, 'We'll take five furlough days,'" he said. "Last year we said, 'Don't give us a raise.' To a person, I've heard on the ordinance list have said, 'If you give no one a raise in Norwalk we'll be happy.' I think we'd be the first to accept no raise. We did it. It's not just like smoke. It's not to say, 'Oh yeah, well we'd be willing to do this.' Well, not that we'd be willing, we did it. No one else has."

What do you think about city employees getting a raise in this economy? Comment below!

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