In appreciation for efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway on Tuesday proposed the city spend about $3.4 million to give every permanent city employee a one-time, $1,000 payment early next year.
All full-time employees would get the full $1,000 while part-timers would receive a prorated sum. The payments, which require City Council approval, would not apply to elected officials, Rhodes-Conway said in memos to all council members and employees. The payment would go to about 2,900 employees.
“Since the pandemic hit, I have been looking for an opportunity to express my appreciation to all of you for your hard work,” the mayor said. “City staff have battled the pandemic with pride, going the extra mile to deliver top-notch services even though many departments faced necessary belt tightening, staffing and revenue shortfalls.”
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The mayor anticipates providing the one-time payment by the end of February 2023, and it would include all permanent full- and part-time city employees who are employed as of Jan. 1, 2023. She and the full council are up for reelection in April.
It’s unclear how the council will respond, but President Keith Furman said, “I’m excited the city was able to figure out a way to give bonuses to our incredible employees. I look forward to supporting this payment when it comes in front of the council early next year.”
In June 2021, Rhodes-Conway and council members sought to raise pay for the city’s nonunion employees to make raises comparable to those given police and firefighters, offering a resolution to use $4.5 million of the city’s $47 million in federal emergency stimulus funding for a one-time, $2,661 payment to all general municipal employees for that year. The proposal, however, was inconsistent with U.S. Department of Treasury rules on the use of American Rescue Plan funds.
Later, in October 2021, the council adopted a resolution to boost the wages of nonunion city workers by at least 6% over the next several years and higher if firefighters and police officers receive larger raises.
The city’s latest move comes about four months after the Dane County Board refused a proposal from County Executive Joe Parisi to give county employees a one-time, $1,000 payment, a measure aimed at offsetting the impacts of inflation on workers’ pocketbooks.
In late May, county supervisors rejected the plan on a unanimous voice vote, citing a need to preserve federal stimulus funds, which would have bankrolled the payments, for possible future use. It would have cost $3 million to give about 2,400 county employees either the full $1,000 or prorated payments based on how much they work.
The mayor’s proposed payments are possible due to an unexpected surplus in the city’s premium-stabilization fund for life insurance and long-term/short-term disability programs, Rhodes-Conway said.
Both the city and permanent city employees contribute to the fund, the mayor said. It has grown over the past couple of years to twice the amount recommended by the city’s insurance provider. Because of that, the insurance provider will also freeze premiums at current levels for at least the next two years, Rhodes-Conway said. The life insurance fund has a $5.6 million balance and the disability program a $1.1 million balance, with both expected to increase by the end of the year.
The mayor’s announcement comes as part of a tentative contract agreement with the Madison Professional Police Officers Association. In the context of negotiations with MPPOA, the mayor said she proposed the one-time payment to help city employees deal with short-term inflation costs that have hit pocketbooks hard this year.
The tentative contract with MPPOA calls for a 1.5% pay increase in 2022; 2% plus the one-time, $1,000 payment in 2023; and 3% in both 2024 and 2025, said the mayor’s chief of staff, Mary Bottari.
“I am happy we can show our staff appreciation for their hard work and dedication in this way and that we can do it in the context of our final union negotiation,” the mayor said. “I am grateful to MPPOA for their consistent work through the negotiation and mediation process to come to agreement on a contract with the city. Our unions and associations are an important part of (city staff) and their work on behalf of their members is very appreciated.”