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Posted on Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

Ann Arbor mayor and most council members take symbolic pay cut

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje put his money where his mouth is tonight by writing a check to the city for $1,273.

The donation represents 3 percent of his $42,432 salary - a voluntary pay reduction Hieftje is asking each of the city's labor groups to make in contract negotiations.


Mayor John Hieftje agreed to donate 3 percent of his salary back to the city tonight. Several Ann Arbor City Council members did the same, but others were hesitant.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hieftje's actions came as the Ann Arbor City Council voted tonight to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with the city's firefighters union, which has agreed to a voluntary 3 percent pay cut to avoid layoffs for six months.

"I think we need to respect what the fire department has done," Hieftje said.

Hieftje's symbolic gesture was followed by announcements from several council members that they'd be willing to write a check to the city for 3 percent of their salary - or $477 each.

Those who vowed to do so immediately included Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, and Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward.

Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, agreed to give back 3 percent of her salary but acknowledged it's only a drop in the bucket.

"We're not talking about something that's really going to shake loose the $5 million gap we've been talking about," she said, adding she hopes council members who agreed to give 3 percent back will be willing to be as strong when the council is faced with tougher decisions in the coming months.

Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, and Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, said they'd be willing to give back $477 over the next year, but weren't in a position to cut a check for the full amount right now. Teall said she'd make payments quarterly.

Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, and Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, gave no indication during the meeting whether they'd be willing to give up any portion of their salaries.

During a break in the meeting, Anglin told he wouldn't give any money back to the city but plans to make a donation to charity instead.

Higgins said it was too early for council to agree to a pay cut when the rest of the city's labor force has not yet stepped up and made the same pledge.

Kunselman simply said no.

"I think it's fine that everybody wants to contribute back to the city - they must have the means. I don't," he said. "I have a son in college. I have twin 16-year-old daughters and a wife that's working a job with no benefits. Times are tough. I give back what I can. I drive a 20-year-old car."

Stephen Rapundao, D-2nd Ward, said he'd be willing to consider the mayor's proposal, but said it will be a personal choice, and he hasn't yet made up his mind.

Beyond the ceremonial gesture by council members tonight was the larger issue of the new contract with the firefighters union.

City Administrator Roger Fraser said the contract with Local 693 doesn't accomplish the city's short-term financial objectives for reductions in fire service costs, but it still represents a major step in the right direction.

Fraser had hoped to save the city $396,000 over the next six months by eliminating 14 firefighter positions six months earlier than planned. But the city agreed to put those layoffs on hold through June under the new contract.

According to CFO Tom Crawford, the contract changes - which include a 3 percent wage reduction for six months and a 1 percent increase in pension contributions for five months - represent a total savings of $151,250. Actions taken by management to eliminate one vacant firefighter position and institute a change in vehicle policy will save another $120,000, according to Crawford's analysis.

Fraser pointed out in an e-mail to council members before tonight's meeting that the fire department was spared any significant cuts in the last two fiscal year budgets, while police and other general fund service units took hits.

"That recent budgeting history explains why reductions in expense were now expected in fire," Fraser said. "From an employee compensation perspective, these are the very first negatives the fire employees have faced while continuing to enjoy mostly unchanged contract terms. During the past two fiscal years, other city employees have experienced increased benefit costs, and pay freezes."

The firefighters union says the pay cuts its member are taking - in addition to increased pension contributions - technically amount to a 4 percent reduction in compensation. Matt Schroeder, union president, said the city's firefighters are leading by example in responding to the mayor's call for voluntary pay cuts and hoping for the same from everyone in city government.

According Crawford's estimates, the city could save $1.93 million in the next fiscal year if all of the city's labor groups followed suit and took a 4 percent cut in total compensation. About $1.1 million of that would be found in the general fund.

The city also would save $5,814 if it trimmed Fraser's $145,356 salary by 4 percent. Fraser gave no indication tonight whether he'd be willing to take a pay cut, but has pointed out several times recently that he hasn't received a pay raise in several years - though he has gotten lump sum bonuses.

Fraser was hired in 2002 with a salary of $133,000. In December 2004, he received a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 2004.

In December 2005, he received a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 2005 and 10 extra vacation days, which can be exchanged for cash.

In February 2007, he received a one-time payment of $8,479, plus a life insurance policy worth twice his salary.

In November 2007, the City Council approved a lump sum payment of $4,361 and five extra vacation days. In October 2008, the council approved giving Fraser another lump sum payment of $3,634 and the ability to cash out 150 hours of vacation, sick or personal time.

This past November, Fraser's contract was revised again to include a clause that allows him to cash out an additional 120 hours of paid time off before June 30, 2010.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

Reading the same tired rants of, "you know nothing about... you'll be sorry for everything you said when I rescue you from a burning fire.... "life on the line", "not heroes", ad nauseum, brings to mind the old saying that the emptiest can makes the loudest rattle.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

Moose, do the concessions you speak of from AFSCME include the recent raise they received when other departments were getting lay off notices and taking wage reductions? Do those concessions include the AFSCME president being quoted as saying they wouldn't open their contract for renegotiation? Are the losses you mention the 90-some-odd retirements that will occur in the AFSCME group this year? Every group has been asked to make concessions... however, you bash the FD after coming up with 4% and MULTIPLE budget cuts that are hardly mentioned. Meanwhile AFSCME just got a pay hike. Not sure what your grude against the FD really is. I pasted your print because I don't want to mis-quote you.... "Among hourly employees, contract-wise, FD was essentially living at the top of the economic bubble (but far below Fraser & top managers). " Yes... WAS. FD is also a full-time job, council and the mayor is listed as a part-time job. So you can take any full time city employee and say they make more than council members. Are they living on top of the 'bubble' too? Oh and Moose... I know you'll just shrug your shoulders at this one... but when you come with me into a burning house and have to go to the hospital for burns suffered while doing your job, then let's sit down and talk about who makes what and why. I know you'll blow off that comment in some way or fashion, but that's the reality. I'm not bashing what you do, but since you're so quick to be-little what I do, maybe you should spend 24 hours in my boots first before posting your commentary.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

I always though that Anglin and Kunselman and the rest, and Hieftje, even though we might disagree sometimes, were public servants. Even tho they're elected ones and aren't paid very much.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 12:37 p.m.

I had a little help of hijacking the thread by another poster. From someone with whom you agree. Yes, the council and Mayor could have done more (such as not putting us into debt to build stuff, but that's another story), but the amount they're paid (without benefits or pension) is small compared to the responsibility and time they spend and far smaller when compared to wage packages for other public employees including FD. As far as other unions not making concessions, AFSCME made concessions long before FD and it has been AFSCME and Teamsters that have suffered the greatest number of job losses in the city. Job loss through cuts and privatization. Among hourly employees, contract-wise, FD was essentially living at the top of the economic bubble (but far below Fraser & top managers). They had been riding high because of good times and political muscle. Well, guess what? The bubble burst and there a fewer political friends these days.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

KUDOS to the mayor and council who are donating 3% of their pay. Its not much, but everything adds up. By the way, does anyone know who else in the city gets a car allowance or a city vehicle to take home? City vehicles should be used for city business, not for personnel travel. Maybe we should offer them drivers and bodyguards also.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

Doesn't it get a little tiring to continually read notes from the holier than thou FD folks who, after milking sweetheart contracts for decades, rip other public servants, then continue to play the fear card and put themselves on the pedestal? This strategy does their cause more harm than good.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

Well, from a guy that works under that contract, no there are no other deals that you don't know about, despite what some fire-department-haters here would like you to believe. And no, we will not be getting that money back again on July 1st. We are hoping the city won't still try to dismantle the FD. I mean, now they want to fund a conference center, so maybe they'll look to cut us to fund that. Or maybe since Fraser isn't taking a cut, the money he saves from cutting the FD can go to another "bonus package" of his, since after all, he doesn't get raises per his own statement. Here's an idea... why not let us write a one time check to any charity we want, not giving the money back to the city and then we can take it as a write off on top of that. I mean, it seems to work for Angling, so why isn't it good enough for other city employees? Or we can just say, "Hey we can't afford it to take a cut." and then just walk away and keep our salary as is. Seems to work for Kunslemen as well. The only hidden deals are the deals that the city administration is making for themselves. You want to hate the blue collar FD, you can all you want. But open your eyes and see where the problem really is. Or... just keep drinking the Kool-Aid... I'm sure Fraser is creating his own special flavor for the residents and city council.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

@Lokalisierung. You are right. Their contract expired last July 1. This deal is a one year contract that expires June 30. Then they need a new deal. I don't think the city is in any position to give raises so the 3(4)% is gone. In fact, since the city's original budget plan was to eliminate the 14 firefighters on July 1, 2010 my guess is that they will have to give up alot more to keep them or these positions will be eliminated anyway. Maybe they are hoping (planning) on a number of retirements to eat into that number. If not, then the fire union just made a terrible deal. Having been in unions most of my life my opinion is that they will never make up the percentage they gave. Ever. Even if the housing recovery happens in two years and they start getting raises again the raises will start giving percentages based upon the lower base wage. When one figures in compounding....they just gave away alot for less than six months worth of layoffs. Maybe they got something we don't know about.......

try your best

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

@lifelong A2 If you state "facts" please make sure you are right. Firefighters pay will not go back to the old wage scale when this contract expires. The 3% reduction in wages will continue until a pay increase is negotiated in a future contract, And I'll be surprised if the 1% to the pension ever gets reduced back to 5%


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

About the 3% to FF. They will technically never get that 3% "back" but it's kind of the way you look at it. that 3% is gone, but the new fiscal year will should kick in a raise with it. What that is i have no idea since i'm not a FF. Although I don't remeber so does somone know if their contract is up this year? Then they would need to renegotiate and that could take a long time.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

no, i do not think that at all. don't put words in my mouth. thanks. i'm just saying that people should stop thinking that the FD's 4% is only a 6 month deal when it is NOT.

Marvin Face

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 12:37 p.m.

@stopthink: I guess that makes up for the past 40 years of the unions saying, "thank you very much, now what else you got?"


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

Anyone who believes that come June the city will happily give back the 3-4% the FD gave up in the 6 month contract they just signed is truly naive. The city will likely say, thank you very much, now what else will you give up? Wait and see...


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

The mayor simply followed through on his pledge. I applaud that. His job at the UM pays $16,000 per year, he makes $42,000 at the city with no benefits but it has to be like a full time job, one you can never get away from having to put with a whole lot of BS. Kunselman works full time for the UM with great benefits for him and his family. What is he complaining about? Anglin - giving to charity, what does that do? If you think people working for the UM disqualifies them from serving on council then you are saying 1/4 of the population should not be allowed to serve. That is ridiculous.

Atticus F.

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

I think it's great that they would offer to do that.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

I bet that there would be a long line of highly qualified applicants for Roger Fraser's job even with a 20% reduction in pay and perks. I keep wondering why a taxpayer provided Chevy Isn't good enough for him to drive to work from his McMansion in the township instead of paying $4000 a year so he can drive his BMW's.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

Did Kunselman really claim that his wife is not eliglble for benefits like health care under his employment with U of M? I find that hard to believe. He should be more forthright than that. Has he made a personal decision not to use the university's health care plan for family members? Can't blame the city (or taxpayers) for that decision.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

Good grief.... The city council is made up of people, regular people, who have decided that they love this city enough to devote a LOT of time to helping to run it. Honestly, what do you all think they are getting out of this? It is a labor of love to a large extent. Their salaries hardly represent the amount of work they put in. Power? Come on, we're talking about city council of a medium-sized university town. I believe they do it because they care a lot about this town. They don't make a ton of money. Give them a break. Or better yet, if you think you can do a better job.... run for council!


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

I'm waiting for the argument from council (and bloggers?) that "We can't get top notch administrators unless we pay them competitive wages." One hears that kind of justification from the US Supreme Court, the Congress, Wall Street bankers, and almost everyone else. That is a profound insult to the many people whose egos are intact, and who do not define themselves by the size of the their paycheck, their house, what school their kids attend, etc. Many of the most dedicated capable people I have worked with and for were not motivated by money.

Just the facts

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 7:54 a.m.

Lifelong A2, Just a point of clarification. The 3% wage reduction and 1% pension contribution increase do not have a sunset clause and will continue past June 30. Just the facts

Lifelong A2

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

PS- If Hieftje's part-time job at the U-M is a conflict of interest, then Kunselman is in even more trouble: he works full-time at the U-M...

Lifelong A2

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 7:03 a.m.

BornNRaised: The Council actually gave up *more* than the firefighters. The firefighters only gave up their 3% for six months. The Mayor (and apparently two other councilmembers) have already given back an entire year's pay. I assume that they will do it again next year. Do you assume the firefighters will give up their 3% again in six months? At that time, I sure hope the City hits them up for even more. These pay cuts should stay in place until the fiscal crisis is over: and that goes for everyone, including the firefighters. I agree Fraser should take a cut... and when he does, it should be for an entire year -- longer than the period the firefighters have agreed to. Alan Goldsmith: You expressed shock in another thread about Republicans not supporting a cut to their lifetime heath benefits for State legislators. Here, Kunselman opposed a cut to his own benefits. Where's your outrage at Kunselman? It seems that folks like Kunselman and Anglin could do anything and you'd still defend them.

Patricia Lesko

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 12:14 a.m.

Good for Ryan Stanton for including information about the City Administrator's salary and the fact that he has been misleading the public repeatedly about the fact that he has received no "raises" for years. This patently absurd statement was echoed by a Council member recently in a comment on another site. Lump sums are additional amounts to a salary. While the city slid into structural deficit, and Fraser and Hieftje crowed about reducing city staff by 250 employees (while expenses STILL continued to increase yearly) Roger Fraser was awarded money time and again by the Council's Budget and Labor Committee members (including Greden, Rapundalo, Higgins, Hieftje and Teall). With Greden and Teall gone off that committee, taxpayers should push the new B & L Committee (Rapundalo, Briere, Anglin, Higgins and Hieftje) to award absolutely no additional pay for city managers. In fact, Council should reduce city managers' salaries by 5-10 percent. Across the board pay reductions such as those proposed by Hieftje impact lower paid workers more than those earning larger salaries. It's a regressive solution to a fiscal hole the Mayor and Council helped Roger Fraser dig.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:23 p.m.

The mayor of a city this size only earns 42k?!?

Lifelong A2

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

Bruno_Uno is right: UM has great benefits. And the UM salary report shows that Kunselman earned $52,874 in 2008. Plus his $15k in Council pay. Plus his wife's pay. Not too shabby. PatriotAct's comments don't make sense. Most of the Councilmembers DID give back 3% of their pay. Read the story. Is he/she seriously arguing that the councilmembers should work for free? Well, then, so should the firefighters. And the police officers. And the trash collectors. That's silly.

David Frye

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:04 p.m.

"Fraser" who? "Rapundao"?


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:04 p.m.

The "part time jobs" for elected officials serving a city of 112,000 people, with a budget around $300 million and an looming institution exempt from many city ordinances like paying taxes require many hours of meetings and study of boring municipal documents and proposals. Time away from family and potential earnings. Don't forget listening with smile to people without a clue. If it was easy and paid better perhaps more qualified and concerned people would run for election. My guess is that it hardly pays enough and is often not worth the hassle.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:57 p.m.

so U of M doesnt offer benefits to spouses? is that what kunselman is admitting when he says his wife has no benefits? I thought U of M offered benefits to spouses, if anyone that works there can confirm.

Lifelong A2

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:54 p.m.

BornNRaised: The firefighters did not take a pay cut for the rest of their careers. Their 3% pay cut only lasts six months. I suggest you get your facts straight. Moose: Fraser only gets a few grand for his car allowance, right? If Fraser instead drove a City-owned Impala, it would cost the taxpayers *more* money: a motor pool car would cost us depreciation, insurance, maintenance, etc., all of which would easily exceed the few grand that Fraser gets now. Kunselman is a disgrace. I hope the other three council people who didn't agree to give back the 3% will do so: it's a no-brainer. When times are tough, we all have to sacrifice (except Kunselman, I guess). As Moose said, that money could help keep the Senior Center open.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:39 p.m.

Mayor Hieftje made comments that the reason he and council members have to cut a check instead of actually taking a pay cut is that the compensation committee, which sets city council salaries, can only meet once every two years under state law and doesn't meet again until 2011. Hieftje said he looked into it and found that the City Council can't act alone to raise or reduce its pay, and will have to wait until the compensation committee meets in 2011 for that. Until then, he suggested that he and council members donate back to the city 3 percent of their pay.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

The amount of money saved with council and cuts to Frasers salary and perks might help pay for The Senior Center, Project Grow or Mack Pool. I still don't understand why he is above driving a City motor pool Chevy Impala instead if us paying $4 G's annually so he can drive his Bimmers from his township home to work at City Hall?