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 first – set 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.