City Manager Toby Wells was cleared for a salary increase at Monday’s Ceres City Council meeting after the protest of Councilwoman Linda Ryno.
Wells has been city manager since April 28, 2014. In June and on Oct. 5 the council reviewed Wells’ performance and concluded he has given the city commendable service and that an increase in his salary was warranted. Following a 3-1 vote of the council, Wells’ annual base salary increases from $165,375 to $185,000.
The council action will cost the general fund an additional $13,282 for the current fiscal year.
“You all know that I can’t vote in support of this,” said Ryno, who pulled the item from the consent agenda. “I can’t see giving the city manager – while he may be due some kind of increase like all our other employees got – I can’t see giving him a 12 percent salary increase this year when in 2015 he had a five percent increase, 2017 he had a five percent increase – which that was a time when our employees weren’t receiving any increase. So that would bring it to 22 percent in just three years.”
Ryno said she supported some type of increase for Wells, just not at 12 percent.
Councilman Ken Lane defended the salary hike, saying the city offered adjustments for other labor groups “that were more than this.”
“Mr. Wells is still underneath where he should be and so are some of the other employees."Councilman Ken Lane
“Mr. Wells is still underneath where he should be and so are some of the other employees,” said Lane. “However he has brought so much more to this community that has allowed us to provide some of the raises as recently we have provided through negotiations and whatnot.”
Lane said Wells has “done an outstanding job for this city.” He said he is proud to be leaving the council at the end of the year with the city in a better financial condition than it was last year.
“He’s wearing several hats – he’s wearing the fire chief’s hat, an engineering hat. I think we had one application for each one of those and they’ve been posted for some time now. We’re asking him to do a lot as city manager and on top of that giving him some of the other things he’s done that we’re all aware of sitting on this council. It’s well deserved and I wish we could give every employee more than what we were able to do but I can say this city today is better off, I believe, because of Mr. Wells and what he’s done over the last year.”
Vice Mayor Mike Kline said that while he didn’t support aspects of the compensation increases for department heads, he supports rewarding Wells for garnering about $1.7 million extra into city coffers after crafting three developer agreements for medicinal cannabis operators.
“We’ve turned the corner,” said Kline. “We had problems with our general fund reserves.”
He said other cities have not been able to pull off what Wells did with cannabis operations bolstering city revenues.
“The city manager should be commended by the way he put that together and is really a leader in that for this area because there’s a lot of other cities that are looking to see what we have done and are trying to implement the same type of program,” said Vice Mayor Kline.
Councilman Bret Durossette said Wells has “risen to the occasion.”
“Think about this: If he for some reason left the city of Ceres we would want him here,” said Durossette. “We want to entice him to stay here.”
When it came to a vote, Kline, Durossette and Lane voted yes and Ryno voted no. Mayor Chris Vierra was absent.