Most city workers are facing furloughs and pay cuts, but three employees close to City Manager Mike Letcher are getting raises.
One, Finance Director Kelly Gottschalk, is being promoted to an assistant city manager position newly created for her, with an $11,000 raise to bring her salary to $158,000.
Deputy Budget Director Joyce Garland got a $6,000 raise, putting her at $81,400. And Public Information Officer Michael Graham is to receive a raise of $3,400, making his salary $70,600.
Gottschalk's and Garland's raises are 7.5 percent, while Graham's would be 5 percent.
Letcher, who approved the raises, said they were based on the employees being promoted or taking on additional duties. He said he took the money from savings created by people leaving the city, and therefore there is no hit to taxpayers.
"We still give raises when people take on significantly more responsibility," Letcher said.
Most city employees are scheduled to take nine furlough days this year, which translates into a 3.5 percent pay cut.
Letcher said giving raises to a select few employees when everyone else is taking pay cuts is fair because Gottschalk and Garland, especially, will be instrumental in coming up with ways to end the furloughs for the rest of the employees.
"These people are critical to our ability to reduce or eliminate furloughs in the future," Letcher said.
Councilman Paul Cunningham said he knew Gottschalk was taking on new duties, but said he didn't know she was getting $11,000 more. He said he thought any raises would come back to the council and was shocked to hear they did not.
"The city manager did not tell me he was doing this," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said Graham, the city public information officer, is going from being the spokesman for the Transportation Department to spokesman for the entire city, so he understands that raise more.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said Letcher would have a hard time selling the raises to city employees and the public.
At first he said Gottschalk was probably worth the money, until he heard about how much she was making and her raise, prompting him to note that $158,000 is a lot of money in this market.
"We just went through a budget cycle where the same people ... giving out raises and receiving them are talking about the need to take furloughs," Kozachik said. "That is going to be a very tough message to sell to city employees."
But Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said she knew about the raises and has no problem with them because having good employees take on new duties makes more sense than hiring new people.
"As long as the raises ultimately result in savings" to the budget, Uhlich said, she's fine with them. "We're saving money by dividing up duties so people take on more responsibilities."
John Strader, of the Tucson police union, said he knew Gottschalk was getting new duties but didn't know about others. He said he would be disturbed by anyone getting a raise at this time, but he understands more if there was a promotion or an increase in duties.
Michael Coiro, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, did not return phone calls.
All the employees getting raises are taking on new duties. Gottschalk is now overseeing several more departments. Graham is now the public information officer for the entire city. And Garland is taking on two new initiatives related to the budget.
Letcher said all three are taking new citywide duties that are critical. He said Graham's raise hasn't been approved yet, but it likely will be once he returns from vacation.
Because the city is using savings generated from other employees leaving, Letcher said the city is actually saving money because it is giving employees new duties rather than hiring new people. For example, he said the City Manager's Office has often had three assistant city managers in the past, and he was able to bring a third one into the office at only the price of Gottschalk's raise.
Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4346 or firstname.lastname@example.org