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East Lansing City Council votes down employee retention bonuses for now

 East Lansing city hall
City of East Lansing

The East Lansing City Council narrowly rejected a plan Tuesday night to offer retention bonuses to city employees.

But councilmembers said they’re committed to adopting a workforce retention strategy and hope to vote again on the issue next week.

Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro and other staff members have been working on the plan for retention incentives for months in the wake of a wave of staff departures from City Hall.

The resolutionwould have offered two bonuses to employees who worked with the city from January to June or July to December this year. Each full-time employee who completes one of those six-month periods of work could receive an $1800 bonus, with smaller bonuses for part-time and other employees.

Councilmember George Brookover voted against the resolution because he said he wants more financial details on the proposal, specifically how many employees would be eligible.

“I'm in favor of retention bonuses, but I'm gonna vote against this motion because I have no idea how much is gonna cost the city," he said.

Funding for the bonuses would come from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars allocated to East Lansing. The resolution indicated the payouts would cost no more than $1.27 million based on estimates for how many employees could receive the bonuses. Talifarro said he expects the actual cost would be lower than that number.

Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg said she wanted to pass the bonuses today to give reassurance to the city's staff.

"The intention is to reward people who have stuck with us through an unprecedentedly wild time," Gregg said. "It's been heavily implied that this council is in favor of these retention bonuses. And if we continue to kick it down the road, I think that kind of erodes our credibility a little bit."

The vote against the measure was three-to-two. Talifarro said he plans to provide more precise estimates of the program’s costs, so the council could vote on the measure at next week's meeting.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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