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Raises, raises and raises

Good government is small government. 

While this statement isn’t always true, it makes a lot of sense during budget season. 

Government employees are one of the largest line items on any budget. We pay for their salaries, retirement plans and healthcare costs. For example, the city-wide 3 percent raise approved by Marion council last week will cost nearly $500,000 to taxpayers in 2020. A similar raise at the county level will cost upwards of $600,000. 

Sure, we need a strong group of leaders and workers to keep our public system operating, so offering raises to keep up with inflation and the market is understandable.

However, we need to be reasonable. 

This is the first time city employees have seen a city-wide raise since former Mayor Wayne Seybold gave a 5 percent city-wide raise in his last term, so it seems oddly coincidental that incumbent Mayor Jess Alumbaugh is offering a raise to city employees going into this year’s election. 

While this move seems like political posturing ahead of a municipal election, a government-wide 3 percent raise is not unheard of or troubling. What is concerning, however, is that Marion City Council members decided to lump their position in with the wage increases.

While some members argue that they aren’t giving themselves raises since every seat on council could switch after this election, it’s a lousy argument. 

City Council does not deserve a raise, and here’s why. 

Everyone currently on council ran for the position knowing just how much they were going to be paid.

Everyone currently running to oust the current members put their hat in the ring knowing exactly how much they will receive. 

They don’t want a raise. They want a piece of the action. 

If council members weren’t getting paid enough, we wouldn’t have six contested races this year. 

Each member received more than $7,000 each year for attending two meetings each month. Of course, these officials are in charge of attending other meetings and sitting on different committees, which take a considerable amount of time, but it must have been worth it since they signed up for the job.

What is most worrisome is how the council members are tasked with keeping city funds in check, yet they are eager to spend taxpayer dollars on a whim.

Over at the county building, the commissioners approved a $1,800 boost to all non-union employees’ paychecks in 2020, which is the first county-wide raise in the past four years. 

This move will cost the county nearly $600,000, but some members wanted to spend even more. 

Councilman Jonathan Perez argued that the county should have given out more raises since his calculations found that nearly 9 percent of current employees earn a salary below the national poverty line for a family of four. 

While this is an admirable idea, we need to be practical. 

There are thousands of people working hard in our county making minimum wage at $7.25 per hour.

Our government is one of the largest employers in the county, and there are all kinds of roles. 

The private sector and legislators argue that these minimum wage jobs are not meant to support a family. They claim these jobs are entry-level positions, acting as a springboard for livable-wage positions. 

The idea that every government worker deserves to earn a wage to support a family of four is a slap in the face for the very constituents that support their paychecks. 

Just because the county has money available to pay for the raises doesn’t mean it should. 

We need to see more council members using taxpayer dollars to improve the quality of life for all residents, not just a few. 

Instead of pumping up paychecks, let’s build roads, parks and public programs to improve our community. 

While public officials who don’t have to worry about the pains of poverty are perfectly OK with giving raises, we deserve the right to be critical.