Modest raises for workers are a wise course to take | IN OUR OPINION

It’s budget time for governments across the island, and beyond, and elected officials would be wise to make an investment in their most valuable resources as they prepare next year’s spending plan.

Their most valuable resources? Public employees.

It’s become trendy in recent times to disparage the work of government employees, to minimize the value of the services they provide, and to seek ways to eviscerate what’s usually the largest part of any government budget - staff and salaries.

Recently, the Bainbridge Island City Council was expected to approve a new contract for the workers at city hall. The three-year agreement with the District Lodge 160 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers contained a modest pay raise of 1.5 percent. Council members put the proposed contract on ice until November, when the new city manager arrives.

The board for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District has also been mulling a minor increase in pay for its employees as elected officials prepare a 2013 budget.

Park employees, it should be noted, have not had a cost-of-living increase since 2010, and like the rest of us, they have faced rising costs for gas, food and other essentials.

And as government employees, like public workers everywhere, they’ve had to deal with declining revenue streams brought by the Great Recession at the same time that workloads have increased dramatically and public expectations and demands have likewise risen.

Park Commissioner Jay Kinney has proposed a 3 percent COLA increase — which would work out to be a 1 percent raise for each of the last three years — for park employees.

By one estimate, Kinney’s suggestion would add $36,000 in costs to next year’s budget.

In the overall scope of the budget, $36,000 is a paltry sum.

But the message it would send is significant. Elected officials would be smart to consider the added value that even such small investments in our public employees will bring.

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