Atlanta Mayor lets Council pay increase become law, wants to talk raises for employees

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has allowed a roughly 50 percent pay increase for City Council members to become law, but is also committing to sit down with employees next month to start hammering out an agreement on an across-the board pay increase for more than 7,500 rank and file staff.

The move may help defuse anger among Atlanta employees who said the City Council pay increase was way too much.

“We see a path where we can afford pay raises (for all employees),” Reed said this week. “But we are going to do it in a thoughtful and responsible and, most importantly, sustainable way.”

The City Council pay increases, which take effect in 2014 after city-wide elections, will increase the annual salary for City Council members to $60,300, an increase of more than $20,000. The City Council approved the legislation by a 10-4 vote on Dec. 3.

The vote sparked an immediate backlash, with employees protesting outside City Hall.

On Thursday, Ken Allen, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, criticized the vote.

“How is it possible that council members believe it is a responsible act for them to use their power to vote themselves such a significant pay raise, knowing that they would never vote for an equal increase for city employees?” Allen wrote in an op-ed column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Reed did not sign the ordinance, but it became law on Wednesday without his signature.

Now, the focus shifts to behind-the-scenes negotiations that are expected to include the city’s finance staff and representatives of unions. The size of a potential pay bump for employees is not known, but discussions at City Hall have centered around an increase of low- to mid-single digit percentages.

In an interview earlier this week, Reed expressed some reluctance to commit to a citywide pay increase. The city needs a better sense of how its crucial revenues from property taxes have weathered the economic downturn, he told the AJC and other media outlets.

A tally of tax collections from Fulton County is expected in January.

“Obviously, I have grave concerns about moving forward with pay raises and then having to solve for a budget gap,” Reed said. “I don’t want to agree to a pay raise and have layoffs of employees on the other end.”

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