Every Chandler full-time employee who was with the city as of Dec. 31, 2020, and remained employed through March 27, will be receiving a one-time exceptional-performance award of $3,000 this month and every part-time employee who was onboard during those dates will get $1,500 as a reward for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chandler City Council on April 8, unanimously approved those awards, totaling an estimated $5.53 million, to 1,522 full-time employees and 29 regular part-time employees after the city fared better fiscally than expected through the pandemic.
Acting City Manager Josh Wright cited “city employees’ outstanding performance over the past year” in making the recommendation to the Council that the exceptional-performance pay be included in employees’ April 15 paychecks.
“We truly do have the very best people in Chandler. I’ve witnessed that every day in the four years that I’ve worked here,” Wright said. “They are second to none. They have endured a very, very difficult year and they have thrived through it, and it’s so creative how they have provided great service to our community. I know this (award) means a tremendous amount to our employees.”
Wright pointed out that many employees took on additional responsibilities while covering jobs beyond their own when staffing vacancies occurred and went unfilled.
“This is an item that Council was very much behind,” Mayor Kevin Hartke said. “Council worked with our city staff to take strong measures to reduce city spending. This included a hiring freeze, a travel freeze and all sorts of other things, very austere measures over the past year, because we did not know the impact or the full result of what this pandemic was going to do.”
For the current fiscal year, a decision was made to hold pay increases for employees until the city could fully realize the impact that the pandemic would have on revenues and operations, Wright said.
Chandler, it turned out, performed better than the revised budget during the unprecedented time. During a typical year, the city anticipates vacancy savings of 1.5 percent of total personnel costs, according to Wright. During fiscal year 2020-21, Chandler is estimating vacancy savings of more than 3.0 percent ($5 million) in General Fund and more than 4 percent ($8 million) in all funds due to the high number of vacant positions.
“We had several million dollars in savings because we ended up with about 120 positions in that hiring freeze that we did not fill,” Hartke said. “Out of those vacancy savings, we want to reinvest a significant amount of those dollars back into our employees.
“I do want to personally thank Team Chandler for its dedication during this past year, during this pandemic. It’s been extremely hard. … And through these daunting challenges, Team Chandler rose to the occasion and worked tirelessly to ensure our residents’ quality of life and to achieve access to services were unaffected. I’m very proud of Team Chandler and the innovation displayed by staff to overcome challenges.”
Council member Rene Lopez added that many additional people, unpaid volunteers who aren’t on staff and won’t be receiving a bonus, also helped keep the city on track through the past year.
“There is a vast number of volunteers in our citizenry that help out on our boards and commissions and provide us advice and guidance,” Lopez said. “Those individuals sacrifice their time with families and friends in order to help keep our city running. I do want to thank them for their contributions this past year, too.”