As part of budget deliberations, government officials in Ocean City and Berlin were weighing the allocation of one-time employee bonuses this week as a way, they say, to show appreciation for their employees.
Unlike in Ocean City where the topic was initially divisive and split down the typical majority-minority lines, Berlin appears all but certain to approve a $500 bonus for city employees, while also lowering the property tax rate significantly.
Last Friday, Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall’s proposal to give on the first pay period of the new fiscal year (early July) a $500 bonus to city employees was met with resistance. While he appeared to have the support of his majority colleagues for the $250,000 line item, the minority members of the council — Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin — each chimed in with their opposition.
While the entire council wanted to reward employees with a perk for their hard work and dedication over the last several years without a raise, the minority members seemed to think the talk was pre-mature last Friday and that any talk of a bonus should include more dollars.
On Wednesday, the $500 bonus resurfaced for a vote and was dismissed in favor of a $1,000 bonus that was passed unanimously.
Employees understand well what all this talk about a bonus means. It signifies the governments’ budgets cannot hand out a raise at this time and instead prefers the easier perk of a bonus. This way there is no significant tax or pension issues that will need to be addressed. It’s a one-time line item expense, similar to what would be if a new vehicle was purchased by the city.
It’s an obvious one-size fits all approach. All full-time employees get the same amount, rather than a percentage raise increase that would result in the department head making in excess of $140,000 receiving a much larger weekly spike than the worker running the street sweeper.
Nobody is being fooled here with these masked bonuses. It’s easy for the government to do, and officials are hoping to keep their employees happy with a sign of their appreciation.
Some will like it, some will think it’s a lame attempt to placate them. Either way, we agree the employees deserve it and that it will surely help local households.
In Ocean City, accusations were hurled that the bonus pitch was an attempt to quell the ongoing petition effort by general employees who are seeking collective bargaining rights.
If that’s the case, it’s a foolish approach because it will have no impact on the city employees’ desires. However, what’s unknown is whether it will sway registered voters’ opinions who are being asked by the employees to support their desire to organize.