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Give the city manager a raise

November 21, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral City Council on Monday extended City Manager John Szerlag's employment contract by a year.

That means the current three-year contract, which was set to expire May 2015 unless formally extended, terminated, or allowed to automatically renew via lack of either action, is now in effect until May 2016.

Council's action - in essence a vote of confidence - did not come without some debate and without some criticism but we agree, it was the proper one.

Mr. Szerlag came on board in 2012 during difficult times for the city due to the then on-going economic collapse wrought by the implosion of the housing market.

In the face of the severe fiscal challenges at hand, Mr. Szerlag brought a handful of politically risky propositions to the table, notably two new taxes that together added $150 to the "average" tax bill.

While neither we - nor the citizenry - were wholly on board with both a new tax on electric bills and a new "assessment" to offset fire department operations, the additional money put the city on track to pay for needed capital improvements and things like road repaving.

Mr. Szerlag's three-year budget plan also added an element of long-range planning to the process, giving city officials and taxpayers alike a look at projects - and funding sources - for the years ahead.

It is here - fiscal management- that Mr. Szerlag has earned his highest "scores" from council member evaluations with overall ratings, for the most part, satisfactory and above.

Again, we would agree with the satisfactory or better evaluation with one caveat: As property values continue to recover - and tax revenues return to normalcy - Mr. Szerlag needs to use restraint in trying to "make up" for employee raises and benefits gone by during the time when the city, like the private sector, simply did not have the money for even regular payroll.

Council needs to make that fiscal responsibility clear, compensation studies or not, as "economic sustainability" - Mr. Szerlag's favorite phrase - has at least as much to do with expense control as does revenue.

That said, we do support a raise for Mr. Szerlag at this time.

One, he has had no increases since he was hired in 2012 at $160,000 per year.

Two, he has earned the recognition for his efforts.

The 3 percent discussed Monday and due to come up again for debate at council's next meeting is a reasonable increase.

Give him the raise.

Thank him for his efforts.

And provide clear direction and expectations for the additional years to come.

- Breeze editorial

 
 
 

 

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