|Pittsfield Subcommittee Supports 5 Percent COLA Cap|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
05:03AM / Wednesday, August 03, 2022
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is looking to cap its cost of living adjustment after the consumer price index reached 7.5 percent in January.
On Monday, the Ordinances and Rules subcommittee unanimously voted to cap the COLA at 5 percent for non-union employees. It will go to the full City Council next week for a final vote.
"Earlier this year during budget deliberations when those started for fiscal year 23, the mayor had indicated we would be putting this forward to you as we saw the highest cost of living adjustments that the city has seen yet, 7.5 percent," Director of Human Resources Michael Taylor explained.
"So again, this language will cap at 5 percent and another thing to note about this group of staff is they are typically eligible for merit increases based on performance. We weren't able to award that this year because of the high cost of living adjustments that were made so we would like to still continue with that policy and this aligns well with those HR policies."
In February, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the all items index rose 7.5 percent for the prior 12 months that ended in January. Increases in food, electricity, and shelter indexes were the largest contributors.
Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi said this will help the city be equitable to the union and non-union employees.
"It's not fair that a nonunion employee be treated differently in the city and also to the idea of private sector increases to cost of living that are not happening," she added.
"If you have an employee with a mixed-income family, I would say, a private sector and then city, this is helping that family. This is helping people that live in Pittsfield, this is helping people that live throughout the county to make sure that they're able to provide for their families as we see inflation."
During public comment, Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick claimed that the cap was too high.
"I would say that the 5 percent is a very high rate," he said. "And still think that the COLA should be adjusted to what type of COLA people would be experiencing, closer to what they experience, at least, in the private world and usually that’s, we would normally see a 2 to 3 percent even in times of high inflation."
Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren pointed out that this was one of the very few times that the city has reached 7.5 percent
"I appreciate Councilor Kronick’s statements, unfortunately, he didn't point to what the history is," he said.
"There is some difference between private sector and public sector jobs. I think this is appropriate, we'd probably rarely reach that level."
Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey speculated that the city has historically given two to 2.5 percent raises.
"I don't see us giving a 5 percent raise every year but in the event we have inflation continue to rise as it is, people need to be paid," he said. "They need to be able to afford food, gas, their homes."