City Commissioner Billy Wardlow refused his pay increase at the city commission meeting last week because he felt it was unfair to accept the raise while city employees are still negotiating their own pay scale.
“I was on the other side of this dais for 36 years and know how frustrating it can be when somebody gets a pay increase while you are making $10, $15 an hour,” said Wardlow, also the former Key West Fire Chief. “I would like the employees’ salaries negotiated before I get a raise.”
City Commissioner Tony “Fat” Yaniz also said he would also refuse a pay raise, following Wardlow’s lead.
The process of negotiating salaries is still in progress. According to Charlie Pons, a mail clerk and Steward for the Teamsters who represents clerical and community service workers for the city of Key West, the process did not have a good start. He said the entire negotiating process stalled because Assistant City Manager Sarah Spurlock was sitting on the other side of the table and she had already received a four percent pay raise that was written into her contract. City staff has indicated that City Manager Jim Scholl will handle the continuing negotiations.
Pons praised Wardlow and Yaniz for taking a stand and is working towards a solution.
“We want to sit down and get this done, as soon as possible. The city employees I represent are very much underpaid to live in Key West, especially when the cost of living here goes up and up,” said Pons. “Key West is my home and I want to stay here.”
Wardlow said he would not be satisfied until the pay structure is made more equitable.
“I don’t know how city commissioners got paid $8,000 five years ago and now they make $20,000. It is supposed to be a public service,” he said.
Wardlow is recommending a “sliding scale” pay increase, instead of two- to four-percent across-the-board pay rasies for departments. He also said the city’s entire salary schedule is uneven and does “not have any rhyme or reason.”
“The new Assistant City Manager is making $120,000 and they want to hire a new City Planner to replace Don Craig for $85,000,” said Wardlow. “Craig is currently making more than the assistant manager.”
Negotiations are still underway and Pons said he hopes to have pay increases settled by the New Year.
Key West’s firefighters will also undergo salary negotiations to reflect the new city-operated EMT service and the attendant certifications required of the men and women. All adjustments must be made by the April 1 deadline, when the city takes over the ambulance service.