WatchSonoma Watch

Healdsburg city manager gives up health benefit


In a gesture of self-sacrifice, as well as an attempt to resolve bargaining issues with employee unions, Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus has taken an 8 percent cut in her compensation.

Pettus said she wanted to set an example for city workers, who are being asked to give up 7 percent in wages, benefits, or a combination of both.

“I feel it is very appropriate and probably very necessary to make clear to employees and bargaining units that concessions are coming from the top down,” Pettus said.

She also noted the current public scrutiny of government employees’ compensation, particularly the escalating costs of medical and pension benefits.

“Some people are willing to step up and give up,” she said.

Pettus agreed last week to forego her health benefits — worth about $18,000 — as well as reimbursement for $1,500 in fees she pays to a service club.

Even though she will no longer be covered by Healdsburg’s insurance program, she said she will receive family medical benefits through her husband’s employer. He works as a Santa Rosa Police officer.

Pettus will still continue to be paid $148,000 annually. But the total to the city of her salary and benefits is $250,460.

The waiver of all her health benefits and the estimated value of her Rotary Club reimbursement represents slightly more than the 7 percent in concessions that the City Council is seeking from the city’s 100 employees.

“We need 7 percent to avoid additional layoffs. That was the goal,” said Mayor Jim Wood.

He called Healdsburg’s medical benefit “extremely generous.”

“We pay 100 percent of the costs of medical for employees and their families,” which runs counter to the workplace trend, the mayor said.

Normally, a change to Pettus’ compensation package would have been placed on the City Council’s routine consent agenda, instead of being a topic of discussion.

At this week’s meeting, Councilman Tom Chambers thanked Pettus for putting the issue to the forefront and “taking some action at your own expense.”

The city has reached tentative contract agreements with its police and fire units, but is still negotiating with the bulk of the workforce, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the largest union.

That union, reportedly the farthest from reaching an agreement, represents employees in the city-run electrical utility, as well as some public works and clerical employees. IBEW representatives did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

The city also continues to bargain with the mid-management unit and the Miscellaneous Employees Association.

Overall, according to Pettus, the concessions being sought from city employee groups amount to just over $1 million.

Over the past year, Healdsburg has consolidated some jobs and had scattered layoffs in the police, planning, and public works departments.

But expenditures continue to outpace revenues. City officials were anticipating a $624,000 deficit last year and a $327,000 shortfall in this year’s $6 million general fund. However, a one-time switch that involved the utility department fund repaying a loan to the general fund was used to cover those shortages.

Shortfalls in the city’s other funds have been covered by reserves, according to Pettus.

7 Responses to “Healdsburg city manager gives up health benefit”

  1. Ray M. says:

    She is taking a pay cut. Since she is covered by spouses health plan, thank you Santa Rosa, she takes the $18,000 at \Medical cash back.\ She gets the benefits paid on her check. Why doesn’t she give up her perks instead? The $5,000 to $6,000 per month for her house or the $400 to $600 per month for a car. City Managers make too much as it is. The Press Demo should have researched her \Complete\ package a little deeper. Then we would see the real money.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  2. Cheryl says:

    The city manager is quoted as asking “some people are willing to step up and give up”….not much to give up when you have double coverage for medical insurance available to you! Your husband simply adds you to his coverage with the City of Santa Rosa…where’s the squeeze in your pocket book? Also, the city PAYS for your volunteer expenses…sweet! Good timing though….cutting from the top would mean giving up a SIGNIFIGANT part of your 250K salary package. Didn’t you just ask and receive from the city an 8% pay RAISE this year? The PD reporter left out that bit of info….

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. Noah says:

    The article’s author states “Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus has taken an 8 percent cut in her compensation.” But she’s not really taking that much of a cut, because the City of Santa Rosa is picking up the tab for whatever her share of premiums doesn’t pay for on her husband’s insurance. I don’t mind that she did it, but to represent it as taking a cut when it’s not, is well, you know. It’s a shift of cost from the city of Healdsburg to the city of Santa Rosa.

    I wonder what the real message is to the workers of Healdsburg? Sounds like, “I’m covered, now you give up 7%.” It’s an unequal share of the pain, and the PD completely glossed it over. Business as usual all over the place.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  4. Mike says:

    There is an old saying in labor negotiations, “give them the sleeves out of your vest.” This is exactly what the Healdsburg City Manager has done. She has given up nothing and made it appear as though she surrender a large part of her salary and benefits. She apparently had and has other health insurance with her husband’s employer. What about the Healdsburg employees who do not find themselves in a similar situation? It would be meaningful if she took a pay cut of 8% not a “benefit cut” for a benefit she already has. She certainly doesn’t appear to be underpaid and in this economy when she and council are asking employees to take wage cuts, management needs to demonstrate their sincerity.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  5. Chris says:

    DP, I am in the private sector and I don’t agree with your comment, that no companys pay for dependent coverage. My experience is the exact opposite of your comment. Of course we do pay copays and deductibles, but still coverage is offered and paid for by the employer. Isn’t that one of the things you are supposed to look for when seeking a good job.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  6. dp says:

    No companies in the private sector pay for dependent coverage. Who’s in charge of salaries and benefits? Their needs to be a public audit.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 12

  7. JJ says:

    Nothing like streching the truth!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

Leave a Reply