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The City Journals

Sandy Mayor’s veto preserves pay raises for city’s first responders and other employees

Jun 29, 2020 01:23PM ● By Justin Adams

It’s hard enough to put together a budget for a city as large as Sandy when there’s not a global pandemic to consider. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn announced during the June 25 City Council meeting that he would be vetoing specific line items in the city’s budget for the next fiscal year that would have withheld scheduled step and grade raises for first responders and a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for other employees. 

The original budget, as passed by a 4-3 majority of the City Council, would have released 25% of that compensation plan at the beginning of the fiscal year (July 1) then released the remainder in 25% increments if and when the city reached certain financial benchmarks related to projected revenues. The plan was touted by the council majority as a needed cautious approach in the face of economic unknowns as a result of COVID-19. 

Bradburn’s administration and the three minority city council members opposed the plan. They argued that the mayor’s proposed budget, which included a 10% cut in projected sales tax revenue, was conservative enough. They also pointed to a $3.5-4 million surplus carryover from the current fiscal year as a reason to not delay the full compensation plan, which amounts to $535,000 (out of a $57 million general fund budget). 

In his remarks during the meeting, Bradburn told the council majority that if they wanted to make further cuts to the budget, they should look somewhere other than employee compensation.

“The very first place you turn to make cuts is the backs of the people who you continue to say are the most important people in our city,” he said. “It’s just the wrong message. You got this policy decision wrong. To that end, I’m going to be vetoing resolution 20-23C and I’ll be returning it to you tomorrow.”

Because Bradburn vetoed specific line items within the budget, rather than the council’s budget as a whole, the city has satisfied state law which requires cities to adopt budgets before July 1, according to City Attorney Bob Thompson.

City Council Attorney Tracy Cowdell also acknowledged that Bradburn was within his legal rights to veto the line items. 

The council could still override the veto in its next meeting on June 30. To override the veto, the Council would need a two-thirds majority, which in a 7-member council translates to five votes. That’s not likely to happen, as the three city council members in the minority (Zach Robinson, Brooke Christensen and Monica Zoltanski) have been passionately opposed to the phased compensation plan from the beginning.

“It’s unfortunate that the majority wasn’t respected,” said Council Chair Kris Nicholl following the mayor’s announcement of his intentions to veto the provision. 

While a majority of the Council did pass the phased approach to employee compensation, that majority appeared to represent a minority view in a border sense. In addition to the other three city council members and the city administration’s opposition, many employees and residents weighed in with public comment across multiple weeks, the vast majority of which opposed the plan. 

The city council will formally address the issue of the veto during this week’s city council meeting, which will be held electronically on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.