Although City Manager Glen Rojas characterized it as a restructuring instead of a pay raise, the end result of a 3-2 vote by the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday night was to bump up the salary for police commanders by approximately $14,000.
"A rose by any other name," said pension reform advocate Ned Moritz during public comment. "It doesn't matter whether we call it a pay increase or a restructuring. It's still a pay increase."
Council members Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki dissented. Vice Mayor Keith asked to postpone voting on that specific budget item to allow time for further analysis, a move her colleague agreed with, but that vote also failed 3-2.
"I think what gets lost is that we have a balanced budget tonight," said Mayor Rich Cline before casting his vote of approval. Referring to the new two-tier pension system and long-term projects that may bring more revenue to the city, he continued, "There are a lot bigger things going on than $14,000 in salary."
You can't compare police work to regular employment, Mayor Cline said, and the data showed the commander earned less in some situations than the sergeants being supervised.
Staff reported that without the pay increase, the salary for a commander fell mid-range compared to other similar cities, while the pay for police officers ranked second and for sergeants, third.
The sergeants union recently agreed to a two-year pay freeze, among other concessions.