Tucson City Hall, including the art piece of the Mormon Battalion in downtown Tucson.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

About 4,000 city employees will be taking home a bonus Wednesday, Nov. 23, days before the Christmas holiday shopping season starts.

City Manager Mike Ortega recommended the one-time bonus to employees, noting the city ended the last fiscal year — which ended in June — with a $9.4 million surplus. The total cost to the city is expected to be nearly $4 million.

“A one-time distribution is consistent with the policy direction I recommended to you several months ago with regard to providing one-time distributions to employees based on the financial performance of the organization and particularly the general fund,” Ortega wrote in a memo to council members. The bonus pay was approved unanimously at the council’s meeting.

Retirement incentives, sweeping vacancy savings, low fuel costs and the sale of properties that generated more than appraised values were some of the reasons the city ended in the black, Ortega wrote.

Full-time, permanent employees, including police officers and firefighters, who have worked for the city for at least a year will get $1,000, and part-time employees will receive a pro-rated amount based on how many hours they work.

The bonuses will not go to Sun Tran employees since they work for a private management company.

Councilwoman Regina Romero said she was happy to give city employees a bonus.

“I’m happy our budget is structurally balanced and that we can finally give the employees that help this city function a bonus. They have helped mayor and council balance our budget for many years without adequate cost of living, paying more for health care and with less employees to help,” she said.

Councilman Richard Fimbres called the one-time payout “incentive pay” saying city employees worked hard during a difficult time when resources were scarce.

Councilwoman Shirley Scott agreed, saying the bonus pay to employees was well-deserved.

She noted it has been years since the city gave raises to all employees.

Mary Kelso, an employee with Tucson Water, thanked the council for the bonus but said it wasn’t enough.

It has been years since employees were given raises and year-over-year increases in the amount employees have to contribute for their health insurance has erased those raises, she told council members.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 573-4197 or jferguson@tucson.com.

Reporter

Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.