Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Is A Raise Not A Raise? When Ben Zahn Says So

Normally, I don't get to write much about Civil Service Board meetings, particularly Kenner Civil Service Board meetings, but last week's Kenner meeting was very interesting.

There were several items of interest at the meeting but today we will focus on a request from Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn for a 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Kenner employees.

In the past, Kenner Mayors have sought simple salary increases for employees. Whether it was 2% of 5%, they were salary increases. But, not this time. Zahn's increase is a COLA.

While I have always maintained that Kenner's rank-and-file employees were, for the most part, underpaid, why call it a COLA when it's really a raise?

The answer is simple: many Kenner employees, particularly clerical employees, are longtime employees who are at or near the salary cap for their positions. A "raise" would push them over the cap.

However well intentioned, this is purely political on Zahn's part. With an election upcoming, Zahn is trying to spread the wealth and garner as many positive feelings as he can with the City of Kenner's workforce.

In short, he's buying votes.

As I said, I've always felt many Kenner employees were underpaid while the top of Kenner's food chain, the political appointees, were, for the most part, grossly overpaid.

That being said, a 2% COLA doesn't pass the smell test.

At a time when there is significant food deflation; gasoline prices are only slightly higher than this time last year; interest rates are low and the stock market is at record highs.

If you're on Social Security, the 2017 COLA was a meager .3%, yet despite the low inflation and positive economic news, Zahn wants to give Kenner employees a COLA of almost 7x what the Federal Government has allowed for people to get back the money that they've paid into a fund during their working years.

Look, if Kenner has the money, give the employees a raise - just don't try to justify it as a COLA when there is no real reason, other then political, to call it anything but a salary increase.

If employees are at the top of the salary range for their position, then they should get more training, more skills, or move up. Many clerical folks could and should move up to Assistant Directors or even Department Directors. They surely have the institutional knowledge required.

But, doing the right thing and promoting from within wouldn't allow Zahn the opportunity to bloat Kenner's payroll with his political appointees and multiple Mayoral Assistants who are nothing more than non-Kenner resident political operatives.

As always, with Ben Zahn, it's not about what's best for Kenner - it's what's best for Ben Zahn.


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