September 4, 2009

City bracing employees for tough budget?

Update: I just talked with Mayor John Dickert. The answer to the question in the headline is, in a word, yes.

Dickert said city staff is working for a 0 percent increase budget with zero layoffs.

"That's the goal," he said. "That's the entire emphasis of the next three months. I don't want to raise taxes, and I don't want layoffs."

He added that pay raises for city employees are "impossible."

"Not only can't taxpayers swallow them, but it's impossible for the city to swallow them," Dickert said. "There's just no money."

Original Post:

A city employee sent us the letter below laying out what they consider an ominous sign ahead of the 2010 budget.

All city employees received a letter from City Administrator Tom Friedel laying out exactly how much they're getting paid by the city, including retirement benefits, health benefits, life insurance, Social Security and Medicare contributions and, of course, total wages.

I remember getting a similar letter from Lee Enterprises a few years back as a not-so-subtle reminder that my pay was more than what was in the bi-weekly check. It also preceded the minimal across-the-board raise all employees received - and the de facto months-long hiring freeze.

With the city facing a tough, tough budget for 2010, city employees are on edge about their pay and even their jobs. This "rah rah" letter, as the writer calls it, did little to ease concerns.

Here's excerpts of what was sent:
A Letter dated August 2009 was sent to all City employees by City Administrator Thomas Friedel.

This letter was to notify all City of Racine employees of their 2008 total compensation and benefits summary.

The compensation for each City of Racine employee is public record. Within public records things like Social Security and Medicare Contributions are not included because these are government mandated taxes employers have to pay for each of their employees.

In the case of the letter received in our home it goes like this:

Total Compensation: Gross Wages
Wisconsin Retirement Pension Paid by City $
Social Security Contributions Paid by City $
Medicare Contributions Paid by the City $
Prescription Claims Paid by the City $
Medical Claims Paid by the City $
Health Insurance Administrative Fees $
Hartford Life Insurance Premiums $

Total Compensation and Benefits Paid by the City Total in Dollars and cents


Was this done for PR? Because the employees who have been discussing this are not appreciative of this type of unsolicited mail. In this economy everyone is grateful for their jobs and a whole lot of city employee’s wages have been frozen.

I would appreciate if you would build a story out of this but please leave our name out of it.


I am interested in hearing if other employers are doing similar rah rah letters to their employees and where this idea came from and why now? Was this presented at a City Council meeting?


  1. I understand its a 0% increase and a look at privatizing some city services.
    My guess some layoffs at parks and public works

  2. This city employee is a bit sensitive on their job. What this employee is telling you is...even though the nation is going through tough economic times, too bad for you I work in government. The mayor is telling them no raise, be happy with what you have. With 17 percent unemployment in Racine these gov't employees should be happy and be thankful they are employed and have great benefits. There are alot of people not so lucky.

  3. I haven't had paying work in three years. I deplete savings paying my real estate taxes, utility bills, mortgage, health insurance premiums, etc. I'm not due any pension, sympathy or government benefits, but it's not easy.

    At 60 years old, I'm practicing saying "Would you like fries with that?"

    Appreciate the pay and benefits.

  4. And your welcome Post

  5. And your welcome Post

  6. This is not new this year. The City started this practice last year. It may not be common among employers, but it is not unusual.

  7. The letter was Gary Becker's idea. It was sent out last year also.

  8. As a City employee, I have no problem with getting this information, and received my letter last week. It is actually nice to see exactly what I am being compensated. With that being said, my question for the City is this; if the budget is so bad, why would you send me this information by mail at a cost of $.44 postage an employee instead of just attaching it to my check for free? I realize that the total cost may only be a few hundred dollars, but it just looks like a waste of money to me, and a lack of the proper perceptive on trying to save money. Sometimes it is small savings like this that add up, not just large budget cuts like manpower and payroll.

  9. Concerned Citizen9/04/2009 7:53 PM

    Dickert is a TOOL!!

    Crooked appointment of Friedel, jacking his salary up 10K from what was originally agreed upon.

    Hiring his best buddy Bach at god knows how much....

    Is Dickert for real???

    Nobody cares about you john, please go away.

    You're despicable and corrupt.

  10. After the screw up with the Dollar Store, I know where the first cut can be.

  11. Be intersting what the 10 year plan is with me it be

    1) Fire Brian O'Connell
    2) Investigate The Uptown Art Project see how the money was spent

  12. Anonymous 12:46 I don't read anything here about an employee's job sensitivity. How can employer payroll taxes be included in a person's overall compensation? These taxes are mandated by government. I don't think this person was complaining about their wage or sounding ungrateful for their job. Read it again. There must have been something more to this letter because it says snip. How many man hours did these documents cost to produce? Aren't there like over 500 employees? In these hard times maybe these types of activities could be considered unnecessary spending.

  13. The Uptown plan is working great. They are offering a much bigger selection of fully automatic machine guns in that area now and the prices have only gone up slightly. What a joke these stupid ass plans for revitalization are. Tell the people from RCEDC and City Development to move into half price units there to show us that it's a great place to live. Keep pissing money away on stupid crap like that so COPS, that actually protect this city from becoming a complete war zone, have to take a pay cut. You do understand that a COP can be killed in this city at anytime, don't you? Keep up the good work, it's beginning to show in many places around town!

  14. John.

    I would bet that many city departments would wish you would simply resign. NOT because you are "trying" to make tough decisions, rather, that you simply do not know what you are doing. You bit off way more than you can chew by taking/running for this position simply because you knew the real estate market was tanking(hard to support a family because of this). You are well known in the city, thus you get elected, plain and simple. Do not for one second think you got elected for your knowledge and or skills, the election was a popularity contest (as they usually are) and you were more popular than Turner (besides, Racine residents feared a Black man as Mayor). By the way, I am White. By the way, what exactly is your "ten year plan" again??? PARTY ON!!!

  15. I can't say I disagree with what is happening but it is real easy for Friedel he is 10k richer over the next 5 years because of the mayor and that (very special) meeting. Good thing he did that before he wrote the letter. I would have a real hard time hearing that sort of news from him.

  16. Eliminate the city developer job. We don't need it. Dickert can do both.

  17. Urban Pioneer9/05/2009 9:19 PM

    Anon. The Payroll tax amount should be included..because it is a cost of employment. If the position wasn't filled the City/ employer wouldn't have to pay the Payroll tax. Every employee should be aware of all of the costs to their employer for having them on staff. Unemployment Insurance, health plans in many cases.

    I would love to have the same thing pointed out to educators..when you start giving them the numbers their eyes glaze over..

  18. Anon 7:56-

    YOu got that right. Dickert has been stumbling around like a blind man in a dark room. He thinks the job is all about making deals and making connections. At this point, I don't know what is worse - Dickert making mistakes and making poor decisions, or Turner, who would have done absolutely nothing.

  19. The city is really missing opportunities to bring in businesses. I think we should scrap the developer position. We can scout around for one that will earn his/her keep. Heck there are a lot of people looking for jobs and that would appreciate it.

  20. Good point on the payroll tax and the educators. We all need to be on the same page. Then we will see if they are still pushing for raises and better benefits.

  21. Don't for get Gateway. They all got raises. No one is watching them, not even the board appointed to.

  22. Didn't The City Bus Drivers recently get a 4.75% pay increase? Remember, they were all getting ready to strike until a last second deal was agreed on?? This might have happened under Friedel's watch, I can't remember.

  23. Dickert, you are so slick and insincere it's pathetic. You have the gaul (and lack of ethics) to come out with this after spending a half-a-million-dollars over six years by appointing Friedel to a position that YOU, during your campaign, admitted the city could not afford. Then, after all the little ducks on the city council lined up behind you to authorize the deal, you, through your consistent lack of ethics, raised his annual salary by $10k per year behind their backs.

    God help Racine if you make it through the next election to a full 4-year term. Oh, in order to help the businesses here in town, do you think you could force yourself to spend your campaign dollars here this time instead out of town?

    And, come on John, we've been asking for over 4 months for you to share your 10 year plan with us. I guess we should just assume that if you don't come forth with that within the week that you were just lying to us about that, like so many other things.

  24. What about the news of 18 jobs coming to Racine I keep hearing about?