Wow. Sure feels like 2008.
You’ve got all this momentum: A town brimming with real estate excess. A record snowfall over the winter. The tailwinds from the Ikon Pass and a healthy marketing budget driving visitation.
There’s a not-so-distant financial storm brewing. But it feels distant enough for those who live in the Mammoth bubble.
And in the inner fortress of Suite Z, that ultimate bubble within a bubble, Mammoth Town Council handed out $750,000 in bonuses to its staff on Wednesday evening.
Not a single member of the general public said ‘boo.’
It would be one thing if the $750,000 was the end of it. Far from it. In total, Council doled out a 13.9% wage increase. And will spend $1.7 million more than it did in 2022-2023 on labor.
Council reaction: Bill Sauser was “so appreciative” of the work staff had done on the FY 2023-2024 budget. Chris Bubser said the budgeting was “great” and “thoughtful.”
The town budget, featuring an overall 11% increase year-over-year, was passed unanimously and with minimal discussion.
It’s the bonuses The Sheet dug into a bit with Council at the tail end of Wednesday’s meeting.
Lunch was the sole member of the general public in physical attendance.
To quote from the summary in the Council agenda packet:
“Employees in the GEA (General Employees’ Assn.) and MEA (Management Employees Assn.) will receive a one-time lump-sum payment as an appreciation bonus in the amount of $2,500, and employees in the PWEA (Public Works Employees’ Assn.) will receive … $3,000.
Employees in all three associations will continue to receive a revenue-sharing payment based upon Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues received not to exceed $4,000.”
The one-time appreciation bonus was a new invention this year.
The TOT bonus program dates back to 2016, though Finance Director Rob Patterson said it’s only “hit the max” in terms of the $4,000 payout over the past few years.
The TOT bonus is based upon a calculation of excess revenue over budget – yet another incentive for Council and Staff to pick a lowball (“conservative”) number for the baseline.
*These bonuses were achieved not based upon any performance metric, but rather, were determined based upon whether one retained a pulse.
All labor contracts were negotiated on the Town’s behalf by Patterson, Community Development Director Sandra Moberly and Human Resources Manager Pelham.
Which is kind of funny. Employees negotiating with other employees about how much they all should get paid.
Town Manager Dan Holler, who got a 6% raise and whose salary is now approximately $230,000, also received $7,250 in one-time and TOT bonuses.
He said the Town had the option of using the triple threat team of Patterson, Moberly and Pelham or hiring an independent negotiator, but who would ever consider that when the triple threat team proved so fierce?
Pay ranges for other at-will, non-represented employees are as follows:
H.R. Manager $103,548-$126,846
Asst. to Town Mgr. $103,548-$126,846
Parks & Rec Director $147,570-$180,773
Finance Director $152,885-$187,284
Comm. Dev. Director $152,885-$187,284
Public Works Dir. $152,885-$187,284
Police Chief $160,936-$197,147
These folks all got their one-time appreciation bonuses and TOT handouts as well as other perks like an extra eight hours of paid leave per year and an extra two weeks of severance if they’re let go.
Councilmember Sarah Rea, who eats taxes as a Hospital District staffer, defended the overall 14% Town employee pay hike by citing the competitive labor market.
The Town’s lively game of Wheel of Fortune overshadowed the penny ante stakes surrounding Mammoth Lakes Tourism and its Measure A allocation.
All the usual suspects showed up to support the retention of what has been MLT’s traditional $2 million haul from Measure A.
But Council chose to roll with Finance Director Patterson’s calculation that maybe MLT can get by with $1.725 million of Measure A.
The three-year contract will dedicate between $1.725-$2 million of Measure A annually to MLT.
Sarah Rea was the only one to vote against. She thought the number should be $1 million.
It is not without irony that the $275,000 shaved from MLT pretty much covers the one-time appreciation bonuses for Town staff this year.
MLT Executive Director John Urdi said in his comments that he had an analysis performed which indicated a $500,000 decrease in marketing would equate to a $1.9 million loss in revenue to the Town.
He added that marketing costs have skyrocketed 20-30%.
Councilman Bill Sauser derided MLT’s Measure A haircut. We’re playing politics instead of making good decisions, he said.