BOZEMAN – 27 city employees currently make less than $15 an hour, that number isn’t expected to decrease until next year when commissioners address the 2019-2020 budget.
However, that is not stopping Bozeman residents from coming to the weekly commission meetings asking the city to speed up the process. Commissioner Terry Cunningham, who started the living wage discussion, wants them to know they aren’t unnoticed.
“We hear the message loud and clear,” said Cunningham. “We know what it is like for our employees to have to find rent here in Bozeman, and pay for their expenses here in Bozeman so we hear the message loud and clear.”
Commissioners have already allocated $20,000 of the FY19 budget, which was put toward increasing 17 city employees wage to $13 an hour. But for some, this isn’t sufficient. Citizens continue to show up at the meeting asking employees to increase the wage to $15 an hour.
City employees are under four different unions: police, fire, teamsters, and the Montana Public Employee Association. If the city wants to increase its current livable wage higher than the current rate negotiations between Teamsters and MPEA will have to happen first.
“We really hope through this process working over the next month and working with the Union groups that we will be able to incorporate those next recommendations into next year’s budget,” said Assistant City Manager Anna Rosenberry.
Commissioner Jeff Krauss has made it clear that he believes the city should be wary about compression and instead base wages off of skill level and experience.
“That is between management and employee. That’s not up to a few people who show up randomly and start demanding higher wages for everyone. And when you start picking numbers out of the air it’s kinda silly.”
In Deputy Mayor Chris Mehl’s opinion, finding a fair livable wage should look out for the taxpayer while still valuing the employee.
“So it is a combination of all of that,” said Mehl. “What is the right thing to do? What is the fair thing to do? And also, what’s the economically smart thing to do? I think we can meet all three of those goals but we should think about it and look at it before we just say it has to be x or it must be y.”
Finding that balance will take place in 2019 when the city approves the FY20 budget.
Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News