If Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.5 billion operating budget is altered by Metro Council later this month, it is likely to be on the issue of longevity pay for Metro workers.
Dean submitted a budget including the suspension of longevity and perfect attendance bonuses for Metro workers. The total savings for suspending the bonuses was listed as $3.1 million.
The current longevity pay structure has been in place since 2001. It provides bonuses ranging from $100 to $1,000 to employees with more than five years of Metro service.
With revenues down $28 million for the first time in the history of Metro government, Dean was forced to submit an operating budget including significant cuts. Virtually every department had its budget reduced by 10 percent.
The revenue shortfall has made it difficult for Council to make any alterations, at-large Councilman Ronnie Steine said.
“I’m not sure there is much room for movement,” Steine said. “If consensus is building, it would be about trying to do something about longevity pay.”
The elimination of longevity bonuses was sharply criticized by Nashville labor groups like the Service Employees International Union local 205, the Fraternal Order of Police and the local firefighters union.
Dean’s budget proposal was on public hearing at Tuesday’s Council meeting. Unlike last year when members of the public criticized cuts to the Metro Transit Authority, the proposal received few critiques. The pushback came on the reduction in the subsidy provided to the Hospital Authority and on the elimination of the longevity bonuses.
SEIU local 205 president Doug Collier said the workers deserved their bonuses.
The Dean administration said throughout the budget process it was faced with the difficult choice of laying off workers or administering pay freezes. Finance Director Richard Riebeling pointed out private corporations were instituting layoffs, furloughs and pay freezes as well.
Former Mayor Bill Purcell's administration attempted to cut longevity pay several years ago, but Metro Council members restored the bonuses many employees depend on as part of their annual salary.
Steine said that may be the case this year too. He said Council could find room to at least return a portion of the longevity bonuses.
“It might be difficult to replace the entire $3 million, but you are talking about looking at a percentage at least,” Steine said.
The budget proposal will be on third and final reading at the June 16 Council meeting.