LAFAYETTE -- For the second straight year, city employees told their elected officials they can go without a raise to help the city's bottom line.
The Association of Lafayette Employees, a nonunion bargaining group that includes all workers except the city manager, declined the City Council's offer of a roughly 1 percent increase for 2011-12. The move will save about $50,000, less than 1 percent of the city's operating budget. But council members say it's an important and appreciated gesture.
"These days, $50,000 here or there can really make a difference. But I think it's an indication of their dedication and their desire to see things work," said Councilman Brandt Andersson. "They're willing to put a bit of theirs out there to help make that happen."
The city also will keep its contributions to employees' health insurance plans flat, resulting in an increase in medical expenses for some workers.
The council approved the new July 2011-June 2012 employee agreement Monday.
Though not as hard hit by the recession as other cities, Lafayette has nonetheless felt its effects. In December, the City Council cut more than a half-million dollars out of its budget, mostly by reducing its police and planning staff.
Workers want to help out, said Mike Moran, an engineer and the unofficial head of the employee group.
"The employees are just trying to ride this out with the whole city, the whole state," Moran said. "The City Council's always done a good job managing the finances of the city, keeping within their means, and they've always treated city staff very fair."
The Contra Costa Sheriff's Office provides police protection for Lafayette, and its sworn officers are not part of the employees' group.
Employees also took no raises last year, and they agreed to a weeklong, unpaid furlough between Christmas and New Year's each year for the foreseeable future. Recognizing those sacrifices, and an increase in the overall cost of living, the council decided this year to offer workers the small pay increase.
"Their counter offer was, 'No thanks,' " said City Manager Steven Falk. "I've never heard of a public employee group doing this before."
Falk, who makes about $210,000 annually, also declined a raise last year and agreed to take a furlough. His three-year contract expires at the end of June.