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November 22, 2014

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Las Vegas city manager gets raise to $220,000

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Steve Marcus

Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell in her office at City Hall.

Updated Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | 4:29 p.m.

Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell will get a 10 percent annual pay raise to about $220,000, after the City Council rejected a proposal for a 30 percent hike.

By a vote of 4-3, the council decided against raising Fretwell’s annual salary from $201,000 to $260,000. Mayor Carolyn Goodman had pushed for the higher raise, saying the city “can't pay (Fretwell) enough.”

Council members Bob Beers, Ricki Barlow, Bob Coffin and Lois Tarkanian voted against the 30 percent raise. Goodman was the only one to vote against the smaller increase.

Before either vote, the council recounted Fretwell’s background, gave her a glowing evaluation and heard a salary report from city staff.

“I don’t believe we can compensate you enough,” Councilman Steve Ross said.

Lois Tarkanian said Fretwell is “the best. I’ve said it before, I believe we’re in the best condition of any of the entities in Southern Nevada because we started earlier cutting back.”

From 2009 to 2013, Fretwell received no pay increase.

Last year, she received a 3 percent raise of $5,400. Her benefits include about $40,000 in annual contributions to her pension.

Among those keeping a close eye on how the council handled Fretwell’s pay were public employee unions.

A day before the city’s vote, Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents thousands of police officers, said a 30 percent raise for Fretwell “would be big” in how the union approached future contract talks. An increase of “1.5 or 2 percent like we received would be fine,” Collins said.

In her own presentation, Fretwell compared the city’s condition in 2013-14 to when she took the job in 2009.

Unemployment was 13.1 percent then; now it’s 7.6 percent. The city had a $400 million, five-year structural deficit; this year it was $9 million.

Downtown office space was 17.3 percent vacant; today it’s hard to find a downtown office. Some 70 percent of city homeowners were underwater; today it’s about 33 percent.

In coming years, Fretwell said, the city needs to complete an economic master plan for downtown and “make sure we pursue a medical district and be keeping a close eye on our finances.”

The City Council also voted 4-3 to increase the salary range for the city manager’s position from $175,000 to $240,000 a year to $200,000 to $320,000.

Beers, Coffin and Tarkanian voted against the new range. Beers said he thought having a salary range for the position was inappropriate because salaries should be negotiated in a contract.

Later, the council approved a 1.5 percent bonus and 1.5 percent raise for City Attorney Brad Jerbic. Both brought his base salary for the current fiscal year to $199,140 from $196,197.

City auditor Radford Snelding received a 3 percent bonus, not a raise. That increased his base pay of $153,809 by $4,614.

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