Yesterday morning, the city council's budget committee quietly voted to grant 12 percent raises, retroactive to December 2007, to five supervisors in the parks department, Seattle Center, and Seattle Public Utilities. The raises will increase pay for two job classifications—one from a maximum of $72,599 to a maximum of $81,327, and one from a maximum of $75,857 to a maximum of $84,981.

The council decided to grant the raises because a wage increase approved as part of labor negotiations in 2007 meant that the supervisors were making, on average, about four percent less than the crew chiefs they were supervising."Traditionally, here at the city we adjust and make wage adjustments when we have compression between supervisors and the titles that they supervise," said Joan Matheson, director of classification and compensation for the city. After the increase takes effect, the supervisors will make about eight percent more than their crew chiefs.

The retroactive increase won't cost the city much—just $157,000, including $100,000 in retroactive pay—but council member Mike O'Brien expressed concern that the vote might open the floodgates. "I will accept that it is probably pretty difficult for a supervisor to make less than a person they're managing," he said, but "at the same time, I think it's really important that there are not a series of decisions that we're making that are constantly adding $150,000 to $200,000 to the budget." 

The city faces a midyear budget shortfall of $15 million this year and a 2010-2011 shortfall projected at $120 million.