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Rockville confronts budget problems

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Published on: Thursday, May 17, 2012

By Daryl Buchanan

ROCKVILLE – According to City Council Member Bridget Newton, the city is “at a crossroads” as it prepares its budget for next year and the council voted to support a one percent one-time “bonus” for its rank and file employees – in addition to a budgeted one percent salary increase.

While police officers, with the aid of an outside accounted, presented figures which would back a raise for those public servants, the council instead supported budget items that include car allowances for its top managers who are currently under investigation for harassment claims and claims of having outside employment in conflict with their city employment.  

The one-time bonus approved by the council fell far short of what many in the city had hoped for as revenue projects continue to show the city is performing well.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” one police officer said.

Councilmember John Hall Jr. noted that the one percent bonus may not please some of the employees, but it was an opportunity to show a sign of good faith.

“They (the Rockville Police) have put up with a lot and we have an opportunity to make a small show of appreciation. I don’t think there will be a satisfaction factor. As Councilmember Newton was saying these are the guys that are carrying the city. I think it sends an important message. It will not satisfy those that have made clear they have additional expectations and objectives. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do. It just means it’s all we can do at the time,” said Councilmember Hall.

While a couple of members of the council said the city had done the best it could for its police force, Newton rebuked them by saying, “We’ve done what we wanted,” not what the city could. 

Newton also railed against the proposal that allowed several of its managers to keep 10 percent bonuses and car allowances while the rank and file employees were stuck with a one percent pay increase and also, ultimately, a one percent “bonus.”

“We are at a cross roads as to what we want to stand for in this city,” Newton observed.

The observation was not lost on members of the police union who argued for a larger increase in pay.

 “Police officers face a myriad of situations that slowly and obscurely, through unspoken words, add wear and tear to our minds and bodies. Since January of last year until May 7 of this year, there have been 33 reported assaults on police officers in this city. Yet we continue to perform what is asked of us professionally. We represent the city with integrity and distinction,” said John Pfaehler, the president of the police union. “With all these economic developments occurring around Rockville, we began to wonder why such a prosperous city was seemingly lagging behind. Why we are still, now three years since the last significant cost of living adjustment and merit increases, getting a 1 percent redress.”

Pfaehler said recently Rockville planned to give Lodge 117 a pay increase, but they never materialized. According to Pfaehler in 2010 a memo by Carlos Vargas stated that the city was committed to providing funding for a merit increase of 3.5 percent beginning in 2012 but never saw it. And in fiscal year 2011 a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment never occurred.

“We work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When someone within the City of Rockville calls for help, we are the ones they are calling. Yet, there is still disparity. You, the Mayor and Council, have the ability to right this wrong, to bridge this gap and bestow upon the hardworking police officers of Lodge 117 the same rights and privileges that you already have granted to so many other city employees,” said Pfaehler.

The proposed one percent, one-time bonus amounts to $340,000. The council ultimately voted for a one-time bonus versus an additional pay raise because it would be cheaper for the city.

 “A one percent raise percolates through future years. We have an incredible amount of uncertainty; a property tax decrease, litigation pending that could go bad, and an election that can go in a bad way just being outside D.C. We have no idea how a one percent raise impacts the retirement funding rate,” said Councilmember  Mark Pierzchala. “If we want to give this one percent increase don’t give it as something that adds to a base. Give it as a bonus, and that’s very common in the private sector, so you’re not increasing the bottom line or base salary increases. At this juncture with all the uncertainty hanging over us I’d be very loath to give it as an increase.”

Reader Comments - 16 Total

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Posted By: Disgusted in Rockville On: 5/23/2012

Title: Shocked after watching meeting

I know hating the police is all the rage in pop culture, but when you GROW UP and realize that they sacrifice so much to keep our neighborhoods safe, you SHOULD appreciate them. The M&C don't really seem to be the MTV watching type, so why are they so dead set on NOT using any of the extra budget to help them help us? What did they say, surpluses in the MILLIONS each year of the recession and they'd been asking for less than $200k?
I for one am happy that they hired that accountant, and am glad they were able to expose "the Rockville City way" of budgeting for all of the city employees.... Minus the 10% bonus/car allowance getting ones. To hear that our tax dollars went towards that at a time of economic uncertainty was disgraceful. "See something, say something" right? I'm glad the police accountant did.
Can Mr Peirzchala be fired? Can we follow up on some of Ms Newton's ideas that actually benifit ALL of the people that made Rockville what it is? The hard working employees, deserve better. It's not Ms Kimble's money & it's not the M&C's money, it's the city's. I think Rockville needs less roof top parties, less ridiculous "art," and I wouldn't miss a few less hometown holidays if it allowed the hard working employees of Rockville the chance to make up what was STOLEN from them for 4 years.

Posted By: Caring Employee On: 5/23/2012

Title: Dear Residents

Thanks for your caring. Thanks for your tears. Thanks for your support.
We are sorry you have been exposed to this nightmare.
We have worked hard for many years to ensure that Rockville is a beautiful, All-America City. Employees’ stress level is off the charts, our goals are ignored, team work doesn’t exist and our vision has been destroyed.
We need your support and prayers. Please help us to restore Rockville’s government to what it used to be so we can all work together for a better Rockville.

Posted By: Rosco P. On: 5/22/2012

Title: 1% bonus. here boy go fetch the bone!

People can ask questions all day, but don't expect an answer from Rockville. Just look at the mayor and council, they ask questions and get jerked around like a yo yo.
That worthless Kimball and her fellow kool aid drinkers do nothing but help themselves to the vast surpluses while the rest of the staff keep falling behind all of the other governments in the region.
This is what Rockville touts as leaders. The mayor and council could help show that someone cares, but hell no, they argue with councilmember Newton about who gets raises. I almost kicked in the TV listing to Mark P.... This guy has been sitting to long in the sun. Hey mark have you fallen off that bike you ride without a helmet one too many times?
What a tent full of clowns lapping down 150K + jobs & getting fat while the staff are on a starvation diet doing all the hard work.
The time is now to throw out all the top level bums and start over. The first year cost savings should be used to throw a huge retirement/good riddance party for the managers after they all leave employment.
Hey! Why not make the managers sit in freezing water in a dunk tank while staff throw balls at them? Now that would be fun to watch...

Posted By: Carlos Rockville resident On: 5/21/2012

Title: The Rockvile Way

The Rockville Way needs to change immediately. Do not try to do anything against any of the staff who come forward.
The Rockville city government makes Genghis Khan look like a monk. This brutal dictatorship must be dismantled once and forever. The only way is to fire all the managers mentioned in these articles.
Mass murderers stand a better chance of being reformed than these poor managers.

Posted By: Jim Bob On: 5/21/2012

Title: Retirement with full benifits after seven years.

Ullery retires after runing the city after only seven years, while the poor employees struggle to make age 60.
I agree with the other posters assessments about Gavin Cohen, this guy must have taken lessons in double talk and beat around the bush. The mayor and council ask the guy very simple question only to have him throw the question back in their face as another question.
I watched the Gaithersburg city meetings and wow what a difference. I think the major difference the overall mentality of senior staff. In Rockville Ullery taught the staff that the M&C was not to be respected. This was clear with the smug attitude he used against when dealing M&C. What a smart mouth!
The city staff deserve far more than a lousy 1% lump sum.
I echo the calls to fire Jenny Kimball and many others mentioned over and over again.
Only federal or state intervention will change the attitude in the city.

Posted By: Paying attention On: 5/20/2012

Title: Shameful

I think it's shameful that Rockville continues to bestow bennies and perks to the senior staff while welching on COLA's and suspending step increases for the the rank and file. The police raised some questions that need tobe answered.

Posted By: Samantha Chen On: 5/19/2012

Title: Outraged resident

Supervisors are being rewarded for abusing and exploiting COR employees with a 10% raise, those who do all the work get 1%. What about those without a union. All they can do is suck up to this unfairness and shut up. That is the Rockville Way.

Posted By: Unhappy Voter On: 5/19/2012

Title: Shame on Rockville

It is apparent that Rockville is currently mismanaged. We can only hope that a new city manager will be selected soon and some long overdue housekeeping can occur. Hopefully Mr. Cohen (Director of Finance), who has been doing quite a bit of fast-talking recently and Mr. Vargas (Director of Personnel), under whos watch has brought all of the complaints and a lawsuit, will be the first to go. I would also like some answers about why the promised raises were never provided when there has been MILLIONS in surplus annually. Sounds like the city has been bargaining in bad faith. We should support our police.

Posted By: Pass the PEPTO Please On: 5/19/2012

Title: Staff Bio --- MPF --- LOL !!!

Can you spell F A V O R I S T I S M !! Does this employee really perform at such a high level to warrant her own page on the City's wesbite? Please critique the resumes of ALL city employees and post on the web. BARF !!!!!

Posted By: City staff. On: 5/18/2012

Title: $$$$$

What budget problem?
Clearly the city police need to make the same money as their counterparts in other agencies. No wonder many cops leave and become county officers.
Pay in the city is less than Montgomery County in general for civil servants.
Now readers can see that the low morale reaches all departments in the city. If we regular employees showed up in force we would be beat down.
Someone needs to get a copy of the city wide pay study that was done several years ago that indicated many positions were not being paid the same as their counterparts in other govts.
I wonder if the mayor and council were given copies of this pay study...LOL You can bet that the buck stopped with Ullery. No doubt the ones who were upgraed were staff like Berg and other cronies of the city manager.
Hey Sentinel get a copy of this study and you can see who got raises.
Thanks.... but 1% is a real slap in the face.

Posted By: City staff On: 5/18/2012

Title: Budget problem?

The only real issue here about the budget is that the city keeps finding money.
They tell city staff to cut and cut, do more with less and then award the directors 10% bonuses. I suggest someone look into the history behind these so called bonus payments.
Much more dirt about the city will be revealed in the future.

Posted By: irishcarbomb On: 5/18/2012


Pierzchala if you raise the salary one percent doesnt that raise the amount of money going into the retirement fund? Do the math......maybe if the supervisors in question werent violating rockville policy and procedures you wouldnt need to have hired an outside law firm to defend the city. Arent you an elected official? Isnt the acting city manager serving at your pleasure? Lead from the front and make the tough decisions. You acted so ouitraged at the mention of not being given all the financial info....but not about how the employees are being treated? Is your bike helmet to tight or did you fall while riding?

Posted By: Unhappy voter On: 5/18/2012

Title: Shame on Rockville

It is very clear Rockville is currently being mismanaged. Hopefully a new city manger will be selected before this trend goes too far. It is apparent that Mr. Cohen (Director of Finance) is quite the snake oil salesman with all the double talk at recent meetings. Hopefully he and Mr. Vargas (H.R. Director) will be the first to go. Let's restore faith and credibility to Rockville. We should support our police.

Posted By: Falling further behind On: 5/18/2012

Title: 1% Bonus

Taco Bell is on me guys. Thanks Rockville

Posted By: Capt. Tug Toot toot On: 5/18/2012

Title: Scallywags and rotten scoundrels

Ahoy there mates!
Capt. Blackbeard Ullery and his second mate Kimball have shanghaied the USS Rockville once again while the good ship was left sitting dry on the rocks. Many had reported that ole Capt. Blackbeard had jumped ship which was true, but he had this planed for sometime after soaking her majesty the mayor in June. Reports indicate he has been holding meetings with the second mate and some of the other so-called officers on dry land.
“The one-time bonus approved by the council fell far short of what many in the city had hoped for as revenue projects continue to show the city is performing well.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” one police officer said.”
Yes this tis a slap in the face to all the crew of the good ship Rockville. Instead of sharing all the found treasure, the scallywags get a 10% bonus and other loot and the crew does not even get to sniff the treasure chest.
The time has come to capture all the dirty rotten scoundrels and brutal scallywags and make them walk the plank into the vast sea named unemployment. Who among you are with me?
Sounds like the tale is far from being over, for the scoundrels and scallywags have been real tricksters in the past.
Till next time. Har har Toot toot

Posted By: Ticked off resident On: 5/17/2012

Title: Rockville worries about $$. Oh my!

Stop jerking the city staff around. A 1% lump sum is an insult to every staff in city hall. Everything cost more and the staff continue to fall behind in cost increases.
The council ultimately voted for a one-time bonus versus an additional pay raise because it would be cheaper for the city."
You should be ashamed about throwing this at the city staff. Rockville is a sad joke and the mayor and council are the court jesters.
Just look at the cost of living index for the metro area. bad enough that the managers abuse staff, not the mayor and council are kicking staff with a small token.
I agree with the poster about the gravy train. This is a train that is only ridden by the senior staff who continue to make very high salaries compared to their peers in other government sectors.
Time to share the wealth with the rest of the city staff.


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