Raise boosts city manager pay above $200K
City Council members last week voted City Manager Tom Bonfield an 8.1 percent raise, an increase that pushes his annual salary over the $200,000 mark.
Bonfield will make $200,193 in fiscal 2013-14. He received 2 percent raises from the council the prior two years.
The decision marked Bonfield’s five years of service with Durham – a run that’s already placed him near the top of the seniority list for local-government managers in North Carolina’s largest communities.
“He’s been an outstanding performer in many ways,” Mayor Bill Bell said, explaining a decision he announced Tuesday night.
Arriving in the summer of 2008, Bonfield “hit the ground running and maintained stability in the organization, and his credibility in the community is very high with everyone I’ve talked to,” Bell said. “We felt it appropriate to move his salary to a position commensurate with what he’s done.”
Tuesday’s announcement capped the annual closed-door evaluation process the council conducts with the only three city employees that it hires directly. The other two, City Attorney Patrick Baker and City Clerk Ann Gray, received 2 percent raises.
The 2 percent mark aligns with the average raise city workers are getting this year.
Gray will earn $104,281 in fiscal 2013-14, Baker $186,348.
The $15,001 boost to Bonfield’s pay for the first time opens a significant gap between his salary and that of Baker, his predecessor as Durham’s city manager. Bonfield took over from Baker in August 2008.
Bonfield on Friday acknowledged that the raise was unusually large and said he hadn’t asked for it.
“I am appreciative and humbled by the council’s initiative to provide that adjustment,” he said. “I would defer to the mayor and council members on what drove that, because I did not ask for that. I did not indicate I was dissatisfied with my level of compensation. I do know they did some survey work on pay and benefits for managers in the area and felt mine should be adjusted.”
The move also follows a busy 2012-13 that saw Bonfield and his department heads roll out several major initiatives.
They included long-term operations deals for the Durham Performing Arts Center and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, new solid waste-handling contracts that should save the city about $1.1 million a year and business-incentive packages that will expand downtown Durham’s supply of hotel rooms.
Bonfield more controversially recommended that the council charge homeowners a monthly solid-waste fee to help pay for the purchase of new garbage trucks. The council went along, over objections from the People’s Alliance, one of Durham’s big-three political groups.
The raise comes two years after the council drew criticism from Durham County Republican Party activists for giving Bonfield a contract extension that runs until August 2016.
It included a buyout clause that requires the council, should it fire Bonfield without cause or force him to resign, to pay him the balance of the salary he would otherwise have received during the remaining life of the contract.
One council member, Eugene Brown, signaled Friday that he’s ready to defend what he termed a “well-deserved” raise against similar criticism.
“Bring ’em on,” Brown said when asked about the prospect of a new round of GOP complaints.
“Here’s a manager that’s in charge of a city with over a $300 million budget plus a [capital program] of close to $200 million, who’s in charge of over 2,100 employees, and who’s trying to make progress in a city when you’ve got, certainly, nationwide economic problems and a recalcitrant General Assembly. I don’t know anyone in the private sector who would be paid so little for what he’s doing.”