Flush With Its Own Cash, Ontario Converts Federal COVID-19 Subsidization Into Fat Employee Bonuses

Ontario, the most financially stable of all of San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities, has seen its way clear to share some of its wealth with its employees.
The city council on Tuesday approved giving most of those who work for the city 2% salary increases. Others who did not get a raise last year will receive 4% increases. Substantial bonuses will be provided to the city’s public safety employees – policeman and firefighters. There will also be generous bonuses to other members of the city’s workforce.
With what approaches to be two-thirds of a billion dollars – more precisely $657,481,036 – running through all of its funds and accounts annually, Ontario is head and shoulders over the next-best funded cities in the county, those being Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, San Bernardino and Victorville. Its wallet absolutely dwarfs that of places like Grand Terrace, Needles and Big Bear.
With assets such as Ontario International Airport, The Mills shopping mall and the corporate headquarters for Cemex, Ontario draws to itself substantial tax revenue. Thus, money flowing into the city in the form of the pandemic relief funding from the federal government – the proceeds from the American Rescue Plan Act – could be spared to keep morale up at City Hall.
The money being doled out, and the relative amounts thereof, put the city’s pecking order on display. Each sworn policeman and active duty fireman will receive a one-time $10,000 bonus. The city’s full-time employees, including civilian employees in the police and fire departments, are each getting a $7,500 bonus. Part-time employees working more than 10 hours a month will be handed a check for $600. Those part-time city workers working less than 10 hours a month will receive a $300 bonus.
To remain in keeping with the spirit, intention and legal purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act, a resolution accompanying the city council’s unanimous vote to give the bonuses made clear they were being provided to city staff for continuing to provide “essential services” during the now 24-month-long COVID-19 pandemic.
Essential was a key word, as City Hall has often been shuttered over the last two years, including last month when residents and others showed up for a city council meeting and were turned away at the entrance to City Hall, and were unable to watch or participate in the proceedings.
Indeed, the price tag on the bonuses for Ontario’s approximately 1,200 full-time and 200 part-time employees was nearly equal to the City of Grand Terrace’s entire $1.5 million general fund budget.
The bonuses were just the icing on the cake in the effort to keep Ontario’s help contented.
The council also approved what are overall four percent salary increases for most employees effective July 1, 2022 as compared to what they were making prior to the end of Fiscal Year 2020-21 on June 30, 2021. City employees who are members of the Teamsters Union will get a retroactive 2% pay increase in base salary that goes back to July 4, 2021 and an additional 2% increase that starts July 3, 2022. Police officers and police management will receive a 2% increase, retroactive to January 2. Those working in management will receive a 2% salary enhancement, as well.
-Mark Gutglueck

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