The Garden Grove City Council Tuesday night ended three years of wage cuts and approved a 2 percent raise for all city employees, from top managers on down.

The 5-0 vote, which came with no comments by council members, applied to all city staff, other than fire and police, and will cost $865,512.  The pay cuts were implemented in 2011 after a city budget crisis.

In addition to the salary increase, the one-year agreement with the Garden Grove Employees’ Association includes “me-too” language that requires management to apply any new overtime policies to police and fire unions.

The 2014-2015 fiscal year is the last in a three-year austerity plan, which included a once-a-month furlough for city hall workers, amounting to a 4.65 percent salary cut, and hiring and spending freeze.

Although the city faces an ongoing deficit, tax revenues are gradually improving, allowing the city to eliminate the furlough and begin to fill a number of vacant positions, including five police and two fire department positions.

The city continues to draw on reserves to balance its budget, depleted its $3 million contingency fund in previous years, and is banking on revenue from several new projects to pull it out of the red. 

Finance Director Kingsley Okereke said in an interview that with a gradually recovering economy, the city is just beginning to restore the service levels and benefits to employees that were in place prior to the recession.

“This is a catch-up budget to begin to gradually restore our employees to what they were before,” Okereke said.

Late last year, the council also approved a four percent salary increase for city police, in addition to a one-time, three percent raise to offset the cost of increased pension payments. Firefighters also got the pension offset and in February the city approved a 2 percent raise and one-time, 3 percent increase for firefighters.

During the 2013-14 fiscal year, more than half the city budget went toward salaries for the police and fire department. 

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