Editorial: Rescind the pay hikes

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By The Staff

In this weak economy, our local government agencies shouldn’t be giving raises to its top officials. Doing so sends a bad message.

Unfortunately, West Las Vegas’ budget includes pay hikes for its associate superintendent and business manager — this during a time when West is set to lay off eight first- or second-year teachers.

Under the budget, the business manager’s annual salary would increase from $70,000 to $90,000 and the associate superintendent’s from $89,000 to $95,000.

We have nothing against the occupants of either of these top posts, but it’s just plain wrong to be giving out such raises to top earners in these times of tight budgets.

The school board majority contends that the salaries are just numbers in a budget and that the district has to negotiate the salaries with the administrators in question.  But this is a weak argument. After all, what good is a budget if we can’t rely on its numbers?

This reminds us of the city’s budget three years ago. The document included $10,000 to $20,000 pay hikes for several top officials. The city tried to slip these raises in, apparently hoping no one would notice. Indeed, the city failed to include the whopping increases in a budget summary that listed key changes.

So what happened? The city approved the budget and the officials got their huge pay hikes. Given such history, is it unreasonable to expect the same thing to happen at West Las Vegas?

During the West budget meeting, the business manager, Dawn Biagianti, said the top officials deserved every cent of the pay increases. She also said that she took a pay decrease when she came to the West Las Vegas district from a district in southern New Mexico. That may be true, but it was her decision to come here; the school board shouldn’t feel obligated to increase her pay to make up for what she lost in coming to our beautiful community.

After the recent board meeting, member Caroline Lopez sent a letter pleading with her colleagues to reconsider their decision. We agree.

During a time of layoffs and stagnant pay, the West’s rank-and-file will almost certainly resent that the top officials are in line for pay increases. The hikes alone won’t break the budget, but they understandably hold much symbolism to employees.

In the interest of staff morale, the West board should revise its budget to allow for no increases at the upper levels.