As Fremont employees grow, the city leans on federal funds.

FREMONT — Fremont has raises for nearly every city employee, even though the city is still relying on more than $20 million in federal pandemic recovery funds to fill a hole in its budget in the coming years.

The pay increase means Fremont may have to scale back some planned additions to its workforce, such as two more police officers and nine positions in the fire department to staff a new fire truck company.

The city’s 187 police officers and sergeants and 133 firefighters and battalion chiefs are getting the biggest paycheck increases of 17 percent this year, which is due July 1, and the next two fiscal years. Most other city employees will see a 14 percent raise during that period, the city reports.

As of March, before the raises went into effect, a first-year Fremont police officer was earning a base salary of about $111,000, which rises to about $135,000 as a step up. Some of the longest-tenured officers can earn up to $153,000 in base pay. A new police sergeant was making $133,000 a year, with steps up to about $162,000, according to the city’s salary schedule.

In March 2022, new firefighters were starting with just under $99,000 on an annual basis, with steps up to about $120,000. New battalion chiefs start at $150,000 and rise to about $183,000.

The City Council earlier this month approved the raises, along with a 5% one-time raise for the city manager and city attorney. With the raise, City Manager Carina Shackelford now makes $369,000 a year in base salary. City Attorney Rafael Alvarado Jr. is now paid about $310,000, according to city reports.

The council also voted to give future council members and the mayor an 8% pay raise, effective after the November election. According to city reports, council members’ salaries will increase to $2,427 a month and the mayor’s salary will increase to $4,313 a month.

Hundreds of other city workers from several unions, including accountants, landscape architects, police records specialists, dispatchers, supervisors, recreation workers, managers, community service officers, engineers and others — will see a 5% pay increase this year and next. % in last year

The agreements also include other benefits for various city employees, such as increased health benefits, bonus pay for bilingual officers and extra pay for sergeants.

In total, the city could spend about $3.9 million on the increase this fiscal year, according to an analysis of city staff reports by this news organization.

The actual costs per year could be higher, as City Finance Director David Purcell noted that future costs, such as overtime, are not accounted for.

Fremont Mayor Lily May said she thinks “everyone is important” when it comes to city employees, but noted the city has also faced challenges filling public safety roles. .

“I think it’s important for us to fully fund our public safety, like law enforcement and first responders.”

“It’s definitely going to impact us on the budget, but it’s not something that I think is insurmountable. We’ll probably have to make some adjustments to make up for it, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the budget. will blow through,” Mee said.

Even with labor cost increases, the city will likely be able to rebalance the budget if needed in the fall without tapping its combined $51.6 million in reserves, Fremont officials said.

“The city is still recovering from the revenue shortfall related to the pandemic,” Purcellin said in an interview.

“We have received money from the federal government to continue the services during the period when the revenue is being collected. So it is not a normal business as usual fiscal year,” he said.

Does it (increasing employee pay) put you at a loss? That’s a little difficult for me to answer because basically, we were in the red before (the contracts) because we’re using financial recovery funds to help us maintain services while revenues are collected, ” They said.

The city used $22.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to help restore services in last year’s budget and about $2.3 million worth of spending cuts in 2020 after the start of the pandemic. Depended on city reserves.

Fremont is getting another $22.1 million in federal money this year. The cash infusion will help cover the city’s budget gap through 2024-25, Purcellin said.

The City Council will get a more complete picture of its finances in the fall, when city staff calculate updated totals on key revenue streams, including property and sales taxes and any potential savings from city vacancies.

“Those new pieces of information, combined with the additional cost associated with the approved (employee contracts), may suggest to staff that the council take some sort of balancing act,” Purcellin said.

During the July 12 council meeting, council member Jenny Kissen said she was concerned about the large increase in spending, and maintained that the council should not have authorized the salary increase without discussing possible cuts. which may result in

City staff and other council members responded that a broader discussion on the budget would take place in October, where cuts could be made with full public input if necessary.

The increase also appeared to deepen some divisions among council members. During the meeting, Casson questioned Mayor Lillie May for taking $4,900 in donations to her state Senate District 10 campaign from the Fremont police and fire unions and then voting on her salary.

Maye said in an interview that Kasan’s comments were a “personal attack” and “politically motivated,” arising only because Kasan supports Maye’s opponent in the race, Hayward Councilwoman Ayesha Wahab.

“If (Kasan) wanted to, she could have called any of the other people who received donations like (Fremont Councilmember Teresa) Kang,” May said.

Asked whether she considered it ethical to accept donations when voting to approve pay raises for members of those unions, May said her choices were “just based on what I think our What are the needs of the community” and not because of donations.

“For $4,900, if you’re looking at the dollars that go into this race, it’s not, I mean, it’s not insignificant,” May said. “But it’s not important enough for me to make my own changes in terms of making decisions about labor or employment or compensation.”