Sources tell TheLiberalOC that the City of Irvine may be facing a significant budget shortfall that might be much higher than previously suggested. And in the wake of this development, City Manager John Russo is recommending a significant raise for Assistant City Manager Marianna Marysheva while the hardworking and long serving city staff gets1% which is basically nothing.
Based on documents sent to TheLiberalOC, Marysheva’s salary will increase from $255,598 to $307,248 – a nearly 17% increase of $51,650 which is a little less than the entire city council makes combined. The city manager’s salary and other senior manager’s will be getting a contractual salary increase as well. If the Irvine City Council approves this budget, Marysheva just might be the highest paid Assistant City Manager in California.
By contrast, Sean Joyce – the city’s previous city manager – made just over $300K just 18 months ago. Additionally, we’re told Marysheva is asking for additional benefits in the form of more time off.
Sources tell TheLiberalOC that city staff has been warned that the projected budget shortfall could be as high as $12 to $15 million and Russo initially called for 10% cuts across the board including city support for Irvine schools. That cut isn’t happening, thanks to the city council members. Fees are being increased for non-profits and community sports organizations and even with that, city manager Russo has rewarded his Riverside team richly for joining him in Irvine.
The salary increase for Marysheva—who hasn’t been with the city for a year — on top of already generous pay and benefits, at a time when there’s a significant projected budget shortfall is foolish and should be rescinded. Frankly, if the deficit is that bad, perhaps the city council ought to rescind any raise until the budget deficit is resolved. There’s an argument being made that the city manager’s team is smaller and there are doing more work with fewer people; that said, going from two assistant city managers to one doesn’t justify the much higher cost of the one salary.
My sources in Riverside, home to Mr. Russo’s last run as a city manager, say he did the same thing there and if it goes through and Marysheva is richly rewarded, he’ll be lobbying for a big salary increase for himself next budget cycle – if not before.
Last week, TheLiberalOC filed a lengthy PRA based on a two page letter sent to us that goes beyond the Q&A the city manager’s office has online here: https://www.cityofirvine.org/city-managers-office/qa-community-budget-meetings From that page:
Staff reductions are occurring or will soon be occurring in these departments as a result of vacancies or anticipated vacancies. Existing employees will be doing more work. For example, in the City Manager’s Office there is now one Assistant City Manager instead of two, the City Manager is also serving as the Great Park Director, and three out of eight support positions have been eliminated. Similarly, in Community Development and Community Services existing work is being reassigned to remaining staff after positions are eliminated due to retirements or otherwise employee departures.
Great. One person instead of two means maybe 60% of the work that used to be getting done is getting done but it doesn’t warrant a gargantuan bump in pay.
But this page doesn’t address the questions the anonymous note prompted me to ask.
There still appear to be issues with contractual car allowances and local transportation for Russo and his team to and from the train station (in Tustin or Irvine) to their homes in Riverside. There are issues about per diem expenses, time off, and whether or not the new office of Economic Development is providing any sort of status reports. Economic Development is a best effort service – is there any track record of success yet? And this is something the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has done for years with support from City Hall, but there was never a need for a paid city staff position for this function.
I’ve asked for a lot of information; the public city budget isn’t the easiest document to track stuff down. But I’m glad the city manager’s office thinks this is transparency.
The biggest issue is the culture of fear at City Hall (hence the anonymous — but trustworthy — sources). The budget staff looks like they are getting a bump in pay, but no one else is. During the economic downturn of 10 years ago, staff received no raises, did significant extra work due to a hiring freeze, and didn’t cut services to residents. This administration is all about making more money and asking for more time off.
As new council member Mike Carroll has a background in finance, it’s prudent for the city council to delay a vote on this budget and certainly make a significant reduction in the proposed increase to Marysheva’s compensation to be more in line with her contract.