City manager receives pay raise after positive review
It’s been three years since City Manager Tony Ramos took office and, by most accounts, Claremont is the better for it. Under his leadership, the city has seen an average budget surplus of over $1.5 million annually and an increase in the general reserve fund from 27 percent to 31 percent.
In 2013-14 alone, higher than expected residential and commercial development activity within the city resulted in a General Fund surplus of $2,830,093. The surplus revenues were a result of conservative estimates in development, a practice city staff has developed as a direct result of the financial hardships the city faced in 2008-09 and 2009-10, when severe budget cuts had to be made to maintain a balanced general fund budget.
“The city is in a very strong fiscal position, but at the same time, we’ve had some reduced staff levels,” Council member Sam Pedroza said. “The challenge for [Mr. Ramos] is the need to continue to do more with less. It’s one of the big things that he works on. Not only to maintain that position, but to continue to be responsive as a city.”
According to Mr. Ramos’ employment agreement, the city council is required to perform an annual employee evaluation, which council conducted on November 25, 2014. The council members unanimously agreed that Mr. Ramos is doing an excellent job and exceeding expectations as city manager in managing projects, maintaining strong financial stability and serving as a leader both within the city organization and in the community.
“I think that’s where he’s really excelled,” Mr. Pedroza told the COURIER. “Getting the city through this water issue process and helping the council navigate from the staff perspective—there were tons of legal issues and we were still able to come together on this. Also, his ability to maintain and build on relationships with the Claremont Colleges, Claremont Unified School District and other local cities has been invaluable.”
Following Mr. Ramos’ evaluation, council directed city attorney Sonia Carvalho to prepare a second amendment to the city manager’s employment agreement to include cost of living increases to salary, an increase in vacation accrual rates as well as update specific terms.
The amendment provides a cost of living increase in the city manager’s annual salary for three consecutive years from $210,997 for 2014-15 (1 percent) to $215,217 for 2015-16 (2 percent) and to $219,521 for 2016-17 (2 percent). The amendment also provides four weeks vacation during each fiscal year as well as nine months severance pay should Mr. Ramos be terminated without cause prior to December 25, 2017.
In addition, Ms. Carvalho was also directed by city council to prepare a resolution to recognize the city manager’s performance with a one-time merit award payment of $16,796.21 (eight percent of the city manager’s salary) and a cash-out of 35.12 hours of vacation pay in the amount of $3,750.12.
Over the past year, the city council found that Mr. Ramos’ dedication and leadership had been manifest in part by working through vacation to ensure that council priorities and projects were timely and successfully completed. Therefore, the council supported compensating the city manager for his efforts by approving the cash-out.
Both the amendment and the resolution appeared before council during a meeting held on December 9. Council member Corey Calaycay pulled the item from the calendar for further discussion before the vote.
“I do not wish to overshadow the outstanding performance of our city manager,” explained Mr. Calaycay. “The only reason I asked to pull this is to separate the two items because the one item includes a cost of living increase and, in all fairness to the other staff members, I’ve objected to cost of living increases. I’ve voted against it for other staff members and to be fair to them, I cannot, in good conscious, vote for it for the city manager.”
Council member Opanyi Nasiali was of the same opinion.
“I think we are all in agreement that the city manager has done a very good job for this city and we are very proud of him for that performance,” he said. “But, I am too, going to vote no.”
Despite their opposition, the second amendment to the city manager’s contract passed with a 3-2 vote, followed by a unanimous vote adopting the resolution approving the merit award and vacation pay cash-out.
Mr. Ramos has served as Claremont’s city manager since December 2011, after serving as the Assistant City Manager since 2006. The University of Phoenix graduate began his career in 1979 with the city of West Covina’s Parks and Recreation Department and has worked in city government for over 35 years.
Mr. Ramos’ experience in public service has proved to be an invaluable asset working for a city like Claremont, according to Mr. Pedroza.
“Claremont is a high maintenance city,” said Mr. Pedroza. “We have a very sophisticated public and the responsiveness is so high. Tony’s able to manage that very effectively.”
Over the next year, Mr. Ramos will oversee the potential acquisition of the Claremont water system, and steward completion of several master plans for the city, including the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park Master Plan, Foothill Boulevard Master Plan and the Watershed Management Plan for compliance with MS4.