IRVINE — A divided City Council has approved $450,000 in bonuses for city employees.
The council awarded $500 to each full-time employee, $250 to part-time employees with more than 10 hours per week on the clock, and $100 to part-time employees who worked less than 10 hours per week.
"It's not a lot of money, but it says to every employee, 'We recognize that we've been through a tough time together,'" Councilman Larry Agran said. "It is not a bonus; it is recognition of the tough times, the harder work, the smarter work, that has allowed us to restore ourselves to a position of being whole."
Councilmen Jeffrey Lalloway and Steven Choi cast dissenting votes.
"It is very difficult to sit in front of our city employees and to object to that type of recommendation as a bonus compensation [for] a good job well done," Choi said at the Tuesday meeting. "But for me, I'd rather be more cautious than celebrating with the temporary surplus."
That surplus is the not-yet-allocated $454,691 of a nearly $14.4-million surplus in the general fund year-end report.
The unexpected funds in part came from a 15% increase in sales tax revenue and a 14% increase in hotel tax revenue, according to a staff presentation.
Lalloway suggested that the money be added to the city's insurance fund, or to its contingency reserve fund, which the city targets to match 15% of the general fund.
"I think it sets a rather poor precedent to give away taxpayer money when so many in the nation are struggling right now," Lalloway said Thursday.
His recommendation was passed alongside Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom's request that a matching $450,000 be earmarked from the nearly $14.4 million as a "discretionary [surplus] that would only be spent upon direction by this council."
Council members are exempt from the one-time compensation, confirmed Craig Reem, director of public affairs and communications, who will receive a bonus.
The city eliminated 70 positions through attrition, but did not lay off any employees over the last three years.
In addition to the bonuses, the year-end surplus was divvied up with $11,540,884 going to the contingency reserve fund, $2.3 million to the infrastructure and rehabilitation fund, $40,000 to create an online application process for special events permits and $35,000 to establish a grant funding review for the iShuttle.