City Employees Seeking Wage Increase Advised to “Avoid Impulse Buys”

Financial tips for city workers included putting money into savings before paying bills and stopping “money leaks” like unnecessary subscriptions.

By Erica C. Barnett

Mayor Bruce Harrell’s human resources department sent out an email sent out an email to city workers this week containing tips and tricks for spending less money. Harrell has proposed giving thousands of city employees a “cost of living adjustment” significantly below the rate of inflation.

The email, titled “Financial Self-Care,” informs employees that “Making small changes to your money mindset and habits can have an immediate impact on your financial picture.” For example, it says, city workers could get rid of subscriptions that can add $12 to $30 to their monthly costs; consolidate their debts; and “pay yourself firstset aside money for emergency funds or long-term savings every paycheck before paying bills and spending.

The council did approve a $20 million increase in the tax to pay for mental health care services at public schools, with Council President Debora Juarez joining Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, and amendment sponsor Kshama Sawant to vote for the increase

“Pay yourself first” is a concept popularized by the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series of self-help books, which argues that people should put money toward investments before paying for rent, food, electric bills, and other immediate needs.

The email also advise workers—who are seeking an annual wage increase that at least keeps up with inflation, instead of a sub-inflationary increase that will amount to a significant annual pay cut—to start thinking about whether they really need the things they’re buying. “Start defining wants and needs – Ask yourself: ‘Is this a need or want?’ with each purchase, to avoid impulse buys,” the email says.

Harrell, who initially proposed a 1 percent wage increase at a time when inflation had recently topped 8 percent, has reportedly more than doubled that offer, but even a 2.5 percent increase represents a significant pay cut in a city where the cost of living is rising much faster than that.

“When we stop seeing financial self-care as a chore and start incorporating it as part of a routine, we become empowered to build a stronger future,” the email concludes. “What steps can you take next?”

For many city workers, the answer is: Continue working for a wage increase that won’t put them even further behind. Earlier this month, city employees held a series of “practice pickets” across the city.

On Tuesday morning, the city council voted 5-4 against two proposals that would increase the JumpStart payroll tax, paid by the city’s largest companies, by a fraction of a percentage point to fund $40 million for future pay increases for city employees.

The council did approve a $20 million increase in the tax to pay for mental health care services at public schools, with Council President Debora Juarez joining Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, and amendment sponsor Kshama Sawant to vote for the increase.

Dozens of students and former students showed up at a public hearing Monday night to testify in favor of the modest tax hike, noting the recent increase in diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness and suicide attempts among public school students in Seattle. Before voting against the proposal, Councilmember Sara Nelson said it was important to sit down with “both sides” before passing any tax increase.

11 thoughts on “City Employees Seeking Wage Increase Advised to “Avoid Impulse Buys””

  1. The advice to differentiate between wants and needs to avoid impulse buys is practical and timely. On the professional side, the council’s decision to fund mental health care services in public schools is a significant step. With the rise in mental health issues among students, this move could not be more crucial. It’s a reminder of how interconnected financial and mental health well-being are.

  2. This is as tone deaf as the email his office sent COS employees this summer telling us about all the great festivals etc. we could partake in. My rent has gone up 17% since October 2022- sorry- Bite of Seattle is currently not in my budget.

  3. Seattle and King County employees have long been the highest paid non federal employees in the state. Their pay scales far outpace state agencies. It was only a few years ago state employees were given by the legislature a pay differential for working/living in King County.

    Most state, county, and city employees lived with the pay & hiring freezes, and the one day a month furloughs of the Great Recession. It was a painful time; temporary and probationary employees were let go, vacancies were left unfilled, and the workload was redistributed to the remaining employees.
    Some agencies lost 20% of their work force. A few agencies were eliminated, and their mission absorbed by other agencies.

    The reason for all that was simple…the money just wasn’t there. Despite record revenues, Seattle has a significant fiscal short fall. Yes, even with all those property tax levies which now comprise 60.3% of every 2023 property tax bill, Seattle is still financially short & choices have to be made; raise more taxes, make cuts, and/or move existing resources around.

    Money originally earmarked for a specific purpose can be moved into the general fund. Do you remember the spat with City Council when Jenny Durkin wanted to take the excess soda tax revenue and move it into the general fund? I don’t remember how it turned out. I just remember the very public

    Seattle does not have a revenue problem…yet. Right now it has a priority problem & can’t fund everything it wants with what it has. Choices will need to be made and some are not going to be happy, and those people can make their own choices.

    Seattle could make this problem much worse and create a revenue problem by continuing to bite the corporate hand that feeds them. Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft,Starbucks, Expedia et. al. don’t need Seattle.

    If they leave none of us could afford to live here, so we might as well too.

    1. “If they leave none of us could afford to live here”
      No actually if they left it would get much more affordable to live here

  4. Wow, as a City worker, I hadn’t realized all I need to do is stop wasting money on avocado toast and I could afford the 30% increase in my kid’s daycare costs. Who knew!

  5. Needs vs wants? Let’s see, Harrell’s wish list includes funding ghost cops, bonus pay for special events, dream tech surveillance… There’s a reason police don’t need a savings “tip sheet.”

  6. Reduce taxes….We have such a soft younger generation that crumbles at any discomfort or adversity, no wonder there is millions set aside for students mental health.

  7. If all those City employees purchased their hygiene supplies at Dollar Tree they’d save millions!

  8. My question is…. When is the city going to furlough workers to make up the budget shortfall? It’s happened before and it’s the easy solution now. After his crew pretty much carried the day this last City election, I can’t see Harrell giving an inch to City employees. Why would he? Harrell is going portray himself as “the man of the people” fighting an unelected money grubbing City bureaucracy. It’s the best political play because the public is sick and tired of the homeless problem… Harrell needs to fall guy here. Why Hello City employees!

  9. There’s ALWAYS money for SPD, though it’s never enough for them as they bemoan and complain the idea of accountability.

  10. Maybe Harrell can give some “Financial Self-Care” tips to SPD, along the line of ‘if you’d quit beating, teargassing, murdering, and running down civilians the City could save millions in litigation costs and settlements.’

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