City manager defends pay raise as Phoenix faces budget cuts

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Matthew Seeman By Matthew Seeman
By Matthew Seeman By Matthew Seeman
By Matthew Seeman By Matthew Seeman
By Matthew Seeman By Matthew Seeman

PHOENIX -- Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher is facing controversy after receiving a pay raise as he tries to cut the city’s budget.

Zuercher, hired in February, is receiving a $56,000 increase from his previous salary as acting city manager, bringing his new salary to $315,000. But the pay raise comes as he proposes layoffs and cuts to Phoenix services to combat a $38 million budget shortfall.

In an interview with 3TV, Zuercher acknowledged that the timing of the raise does not look good, but he defended it as being at the bottom of the range advertised.

"I was hired to do a job," he said. "That job was advertised at a specific rate of pay."

But unlike the previous city manager, Zuercher said he has foregone certain perks like car allowances. He has also given up other sweeteners like banking sick leave and unused cellphone allowances, which his predecessor used to inflate his pension.

"It’s very different," he said. "I think it’s very responsible. It complies with what was advertised, and it’s a reduction from all previous contracts."

He added that he is prepared to give up more if city workers see salary deductions from budget problems.

"Any concession taken by city employees, I will meet or exceed those concessions," Zuercher said.

But labor leaders say those promises are not enough. Luis Schmidt, president of the Arizona chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the raise is "yet another inconsistent message from the city council on what direction the city’s going in."

Zuercher is also sending the wrong message by taking the pay raise, Schmidt said, as the community has been asked to sacrifice programs and community centers in lower socio-economic parts of the city.

City employees have gone without pay raises for years, he added, and they suffer from low morale.

"The city, the employees, the community would have held him in high regard if he somehow deferred this until we got through this economic crisis," he said.