On Monday, longtime Sisters City Manager Eileen Stein resigned (read: was removed by a new city council elected last November). According to former Sisters city councilors, this wasn't the first time the city council there had considered ousting her for issues of trustworthiness and competency.
What is baffling, though, is that the terms of her departure include a golden parachute that'll cost the city of Sisters nearly $100,000 in cash and health care premiums ($98,699.98, to be exact). This comes in exchange for her immediate departure and promise not to sue the city for anything that occurred from the "beginning of time" (literally—it actually says that) until now, according to the separation agreement signed by Stein on March 31.
For a small city with a total staffing budget of $1.3 million, that's a lot of money—an observation underscored by Stein's own 2012-2013 budget memo to the city's budget committee, which describes Sisters as a city acutely feeling the pain of the economic downturn. "The FY12/13 City of Sisters budget," reads the memo, "was again prepared with attention paid to containing costs, including continuing to reduce personnel costs, in an effort to 'live within one's means' during this extraordinary time."
To deal with these "extraordinary times" the city made the following considerations this year: It nipped cost-of-living increases for staff; cut an office specialist position from .75 FTE to .50; and, trimmed its capital expenditure budget by about $1 million, according to the city's budget.
We wondered what Sisters could afford with the roughly $100,000 it will pay Stein to not do her job. Turns out, a lot.
39 YEARS OF SNOW REMOVAL—The city budgeted $2,500 to clear city streets this year.
16 YEARS OF STREET LIGHTS—It'll cost an estimated $6,000 to keep the lights on this year.
RAISES FOR CITY STAFF—Stein's severance package is enough to cover two and a half year's worth of 3 percent cost-of-living increases for every staff member at the city of Sisters.
THREE SKATEPARKS—For almost a decade, the skate community in Sisters has craved a skatepark of its own. Skaters and supporters there finally scratched together $33,000 in materials to build a park, which was completed last year.
394 SISTERS-MADE QUILTS—According to the Stitchin' Post, the average cost of a quilt handmade by a Sisters artist is about $250. Stein's deal could have gone a long way to support local artisans.
2,500 UKULELES—The Belfry recently hosted a fundraiser to get ukuleles into the hands of local students. Hello! Hero opportunity missed!
UPGRADE THE BELFRY THREE TIMES OVER—Sisters' newest music venue is already drawing crowds from Redmond and Bend, but needs a makeover to become the community events space it aims to be. The owner is looking for $34,500 on Kickstarter.
32,899 SCONES—Whenever we pass through Sisters we get a craving for scones at Angeline's Bakery. Just think how much more we'd spend on coffee and quiche if we had a little free incentive to pull off.
Got an idea for how Sisters could better spend $98,699.98? Send us a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us all about it. In the meantime, we're giving THE BOOT to golden parachutes everywhere.