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A $15 minimum wage would add nearly $700,000 to city's own labor costs

An analysis requested by Mayor Ed Murray's transition team shows the cost of bumping up wages for parks, Seattle Center and Office of Arts and Culture employees.
A $15 per hour wage would raise city pay for some workers at KeyArena, other parts of Seattle Center and Seattle parks.

A $15 per hour wage would raise city pay for some workers at KeyArena, other parts of Seattle Center and Seattle parks. Doug Kerr/Flickr

Increasing Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 per hour would create about $690,000 in additional annual labor costs for the city itself, according to a City Budget Office estimate.

Mayor Ed Murray’s transition team requested a “fiscal analysis” in December to determine how much the wage hike would cost the city. The Budget Office evaluated the cost of increasing wages for 617 full- and part-time city employees who work for the Department of Parks and Recreation, Seattle Center and the Office of Arts and Culture. A total of 663 city employees currently make less than $15 dollars per hour, according to the Personnel Department. Seattle will have the equivalent of about 11,300 full-time employees in 2014.

Murray has said he supports increasing the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by the end of his first four-year term. In mid-December, he asked a 23-member committee of City Council members, business leaders and labor representatives to come up with a plan in the next four months for raising Seattle’s pay-floor.

Based on the Budget Office estimate, if the $15 minimum wage went into effect, annual labor costs would rise by $492,000 for Parks and Recreation, $194,000 for Seattle Center and $4,000 for the Office of Arts and Culture. In addition to the effects of increasing workers' wages, the estimate included the cost of paying additional retirement and Social Security benefits.

The jobs included in the estimate fell under the city’s “Step Progression Compensation Program.” Hourly wages for these jobs increase in “steps” based on the amount of time an employee has worked for the city. In the estimate, the Budget Office included positions with steps under $15 dollars. Wages were increased proportionally for each step. If a job’s lowest step were $10 per hour, then that step would bump up to $15, the $11 per hour step to $16, and the $12 per hour step to $17.

Hall Walker, whose final day as the Budget Office’s Deputy Director was on Monday, said the study didn't look at raising wages for workers in jobs that do not currently pay less than $15. “If you were in a class that has no steps below fifteen, then you didn’t get a change,” he said.

In 2013 there were 43 types of jobs with steps under $15 per hour, according to the city's salary schedule.

The estimate, Walker said, did not include any analysis about how to pay for the additional labor costs.

“We did not venture into that yet, although clearly that will be part of the discussion moving ahead,” he said.

Seattle Center, according to a spokesperson and Walker, would probably be able to pass along the bulk of any new labor expenses to its clients. The center’s facilities, which include Key Arena, are used for events including concerts and basketball games. The center’s 2014 budget is $36.3 million. Only about $13 million of the budget comes from the city’s general fund. The rest comes from revenue sources like from parking fees and facility rentals. Approximately 55 percent, or $19.9 million, of Seattle Center's 2014 expenditures are expected to be for personnel costs. 

“We have a lot of intermittent employees here,” said Seattle Center spokesperson Deborah Daoust. She said these employees include ushers and admissions staff. The hourly wage for an usher, according to the salary schedule, is $11.07 and the hourly wage for a ticket seller is $13.20. For events at Key Arena with 12,000 or more attendees, Daoust said that Seattle Center will typically hire between 120 and 150 admissions staff.

Murray’s communication director, Jeff Reading, said that no one on the transition team had discussed specific options for covering the added expenses Parks and Recreation would incur if the minimum wage goes up to $15 per hour.

“This will certainly be a piece of the overall conversation that [the mayor] recently initiated when he launched his Income Inequality Advisory Committee,” he said.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Jan 2, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

The city increases wages for city employees to a minimum of $15 an hour.

The city then outsources much of the work currently being performed by city employees to vendors that don't pay their staff $15 an hour and that don't provide government benefits and pensions.

City's labor and pension costs go down, but the city still says that city employees have a $15 minimum wage.

talisker

Posted Thu, Jan 9, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

I would hope that temporary/intermittent workers do not receive benefits from the City of Seattle, no matter what they earn.

Posted Thu, Jan 2, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

The cost to the City will certainly be more than $700,000. If you increase the base wage to $15 per hour, someone who is currently a supervisor or in a skilled position earning $16 or $17 per hour will demand to be paid more than $1 per hour more than the entry level employees. And on up the pay scale it will go. With over 11,000 employees on the City payroll it will likely be a very significant increase in wage expenses for the City. So up will go taxes, and fees.

crash63

Posted Thu, Jan 2, 10:10 p.m. Inappropriate

If $700,000/year is the cost to the City of raising the minimum wage to $15, I expect the citizens of this great city will find it in their hearts to cough up a bit more than $1 annually on behalf of our less fortunate fellow citizens.

busterg

Posted Fri, Jan 3, 8:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Less fortunate then who?

There are a lot people in Seattle who work for about the same wage but their benefit package sucks. That's the real issue. Not government workers. Let's face it government employees at all levels are fairly well off when compared to the alternative, those who toil on the bottom of economic ladder without government benefit packages. There aren't many burger flippers that have a company retirement plan funded by the-at-large citizenry.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Jan 4, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

How wonderful to be so naïve.

Posted Thu, Jan 2, 11:20 p.m. Inappropriate

The fact that more than 600 City employees make less than $15/hr is sickening. Maybe Jean Godden could help take that issue on along with the gender pay gap, since they both exemplify the inequality of our municipal society.

sarah90

Posted Sat, Jan 4, 1:53 p.m. Inappropriate

It's not sickening at all. I think the fact that the city only has 600 employees that make less than $15/hour is sickening.

Teens and young adults need those low paying jobs, as do other unskilled workers as well as non-English speaking immigrants.

Raise the pay, and even more people become unemployed. Time to enroll in an Econ 101 class Sarah90.

Posted Tue, Jan 7, 10:51 p.m. Inappropriate

How would you suggest that those young adults and unskilled workers pay for food and housing? Time to grow a heart and a brain, common1sense.

sarah90

Posted Wed, Jan 8, 4:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Sarah90, when I employed anyone paying minimum wage, they were students in high school or college. They were the only people who wanted my service oriented jobs, and they lived on their own with roommates or with mom, dad or other relatives.

If minimum wagers don't have skills to land jobs that pay better than minimum wage, they either need to develop those important job skills or put up with not having everything they want in life. It's a personal choice. This state and country should not handicap personal drive and responsibility by having starter wages be too high and comfy.

It is critical that the minimum wage remains low enough to act as a motivator to work hard, and learn some work skills, and go out and work at better jobs in the future. Remaining a minimum wage worker cannot be the end goal of millions of people in this country.

Minimum wage is meant to be a starter position, one where people learn skills and move up the working food chain. Bettering oneself doesn't include working a minimum wage job all of one's working career.

I also believe that the current minimum wage should be much lower for 14 - 16 year old teens. These kids are denied job opportunities because the employers take one look at their work ethics and say YIKES!

Have you ever owned your own business and employed people, Sarah90?
When it is your own money, you have a far, far different take on everything.

Posted Fri, Jan 3, 10:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Does anybody remember why there is a minimum wage? It has nothing to do with equality, or social responsibility, it had to do with politics. In 1932, when FDR was elected, the USA was facing a potential revolution similar to the Russian revolution of 1917. FDR instituted the minimum wage to make more work available to the masses. When people work, they do not revolt. At the time of his election, many people held down multiple jobs to survive. The minimum wage was designed to allow one job to support a family instead of the previous multiple jobs supporting families. Thus with that stroke of a pen, the number of Americans not working was cut in half almost overnight. Revolution was stymied, and America started back to work. Once again, we are approaching that tipping point. No, it is not government that causes the problem it is corporate America, who uses government to do their dirty work. Don’t blame Obama and the Democrats or Boehner and the Republicans; they are just shills for Boeing, Apple, Wal-Mart Exxon Mobile and all the other corporate vultures in our economy. We blindly support “free enterprise” corporate America; it is time to take stock of ourselves.

Posted Sat, Jan 4, 5 a.m. Inappropriate

Dear Mayor McBankrupt,

Take from the top wager earners first, unless your goal is to reduce the middle class to poverty level.

salmonjim

Posted Mon, Jan 6, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Very strange comments above. Whatever happened to free markets? The markets set the wages. Some jobs are simply not worth $15 per hour. So why pay someone $15 per hour for a lesser job? That makes no sense.

taupe

Posted Mon, Jan 6, 4:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Hey, who let you in here, taupe? You're far too sensible for this crazy place! :)

Posted Tue, Jan 7, 10:56 p.m. Inappropriate

The City Council (who hold the purse strings) voted $750,000 to Mayor Murray to set up his office. They took away $500,000 from McGinn 4 years ago. Murray's paying his staff and his appointees, in almost every case, more than McGinn did 6 months ago. So complaining about City employees being paid $15/hr instead of, perhaps, $11/hr is pretty disingenous, and completely political.

sarah90

Posted Wed, Jan 8, 3:11 p.m. Inappropriate

I can't believe Seattle has another liberal Mayor. Well congratulations for electing another idiot who loves to give away taxpayer money. Someday, Seattle will wake up.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 3:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Leading the way on this $15.00 an hour issue with tax payer money is so typical of liberals. So we should tax individuals and businesses more so we can pay city workers 15.00 an hour and then say "see if we can do it why can't you?" I say let the city Employees earn the same and instead, cut taxes on business that prove that their payroll is 15.00 per hour or more for each employee and let the economy thrive. this is how real free markets need to work not some government forced wage rates. If we do it the way the politicians are proposing we are going to inflate all kinds of prices in Seattle and $15.00 will be just like earning $5.00 in a few years. lets just see how SeaTac turns out before we make this same dumb mistakes on a bigger scale in Seattle!

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