In 2008, when Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was proposing unpopular budget cuts to pools and libraries, he was quick to point out that his top staffers would also be taking a pay cut. For some, that's changed.
Starting in 2009, Mayor Nutter and his top staffers took salary cuts ranging from five to ten percent, as a way to soften the impact of the budget crisis on taxpayers.
Now, after three years of givebacks, 22 of Nutter's top staffers have quietly stopped taking pay cuts. Their salaries, which were restored in January, cost the city an additional $116,400 this year. Their annual pay ranges from to $78,000 to $174,000.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald says Nutter decided his staff had given back sufficiently. He also points out that nine of Nutter's top staffers, including finance director Rob Dubow and chief-of-staff Everett Gillison, are still taking pay cuts totaling almost $83,000. Nutter is also still slashing his own salary.
Zack Stalberg, president of the government watchdog Committee of Seventy, says Nutter should have been more transparent about restoring the officials' pay. He also wonders whether the city has recovered enough to justify the decision.
"I think that they made a big deal of of the cuts, and they have a responsibility to at least let people know," said Stalberg. "I think given the state of the city's finances and the school district's finances, that it's certainly questionable. Cities and states across the country are in a real jam and the school district in particular is deep in a hole."
City Council and Nutter raised property taxes by almost 3.6 percent this year in order to give additional money to the cash-strapped school district. The city has also warned that a recent arbitration award, which gave Philadelphia firefighters a pay bump, could lead to a deep budget deficit.
Bill Gault, president of the firefighters' union, says Nutter can't argue that the city doesn't have enough money for firefighters' raises while also restoring salaries for his top staffers.
"No matter what they keep crying about, the city's doing alright," said Gault. "They're building all over . . . we're so top-heavy with administrators in this city. Who's taking care of public safety?"
Nutter recently refused a cost-of-living raise. According to the City Controller, Nutter has given back more than $97,600 in salary to the city since the economic downturn.