"Can and should be replaced"
COLUMBIA, Mo 8/13/18 (Beat Byte)
-- Retired assistant City of Columbia utility director Jim Windsor
harshly criticized city manager Mike Matthes
at last week's Council meeting
for fiscal irresponsibility and "mediocre management" driving away top employees.
"As a taxpayer and ratepayer, I don't want mediocrity," Windsor -- a recent retiree after over thirty years at City Hall -- told the Council
. "I don't believe the City Council wants mediocrity, either."
Windsor blasted Matthes for repeating a baseless claim -- that City Hall can't afford pay raises in an era of declining sales taxes. Instead, low pay is part of a city compensation policy
Council members passed five years ago.
"The City of Columbia targets benefits and compensation levels at the median of the competitive labor market," Windsor said. "The city accepts that fifty percent of the labor market will pay more
than the City of Columbia."
Both Council and city manager "ignore other parts of the pay policy
, including that individual merit will be recognized," Windsor said. Matthes has given no merit pay raises since he took office in 2011.
"The current pay philosophy supports an environment of mediocrity by deliberately setting the goal of always paying LESS than fifty percent of the labor market," he told the Council.
With police officers, firefighters, electric line workers, trash haulers, and other city employees clamoring for better pay and working conditions, "city-wide turnover rates have set new records over each of the last three years," Windsor said. "Some of the most talented employees have left the city for other employers."
Salaries are only part of the problem. "While better pay is important, it's not the only reason employees leave," Windsor said. "They recognize mediocre management and feel their concerns are ignored and that they are not supported in doing an effective job.
"As a recent retiree, I know that many talented employees have lost confidence in management
and are looking elsewhere."
A Columbia Water and Light Department rate analyst and financial manager before he became assistant director, Windsor then enumerated the ways Mike Matthes is a mediocre city manager.
"Mediocre management uses the same excuses year after year, without acting," he said. "Mediocre management doesn't keep the City Council informed....Mediocre management takes fiscally irresponsible positions..."
Among Matthes' irresponsible decisions: hiring contract crews at over TWICE the cost of city employees; and holding too much cash in reserve and savings accounts, aka slush funds.
The General Fund alone, which pays for fire and police, has over $7.1 million in combined excess reserves and 2017 savings that could be used to raise pay, Windsor explained.
"The General Fund cash reserve amount will be twenty five percent ABOVE the cash reserve target set by Council," he said. "There is no legitimate reason the 2019 Budget shouldn't include a five percent merit raise for ALL employees."
When a group of retired city employees forced Matthes to acknowledge a shortage in electric utility line workers, the city manager "rolled out the reduction in tax revenues excuse, even though the electric utility does NOT use tax revenue," Windsor said.
The utility's so-called "contingency fund", which comes from utility bills, could easily be tapped to provide line workers "7.5% to 15% pay raises," based on seniority and merit, he added.
"The City Council has the authority to change course and stop the spiral of mediocrity," Windsor concluded. "Mediocre management can and should be replaced. The ratepayers and taxpayers of Columbia deserve more than a mediocre government."