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Council Shouldn’t Change Its Mind On Tuition Request

No one can blame Zach Altschuler, Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s executive assistant, for trying to further his education. Nor can anyone blame Altschuler for trying to have the city reimburse him for the cost of two classes toward his masters degree.

After all, not all executive assistants have the longevity of Altschuler’s predecessor. Matt Hanley, executive assistant to former Mayor Sam Teresi, served 20 years and before finding another position in city employment before leaving the city for the private sector earlier this year. Having an education is important for political appointees whose jobs may only last a few years.

The City Council’s Finance Committee last week denied Altschuler’s request for the city to reimburse two of Altschuler’s masters classes. It was the right decision.

We recognize there are vast differences between the private and public sector, but it’s hard to believe the private sector would pay for an employee’s degree when the benefit is likely to come when the employee is working somewhere else. That’s no fault of Altschuler’s. But the greater benefit of his increased education likely isn’t going to be Jamestown taxpayers unless Altschuler ends up becoming mayor someday.

Part of the problem is the way the job classification is drawn, where the top candidates are suggested to have a masters degree in the first place. We haven’t seen much from the executive assistant to the mayor’s position over the years to suggest a masters degree is needed. The position certainly does more than fetch coffee and respond to emails, but it’s also not making executive-level decisions in place of the mayor. In our view, the council should change the job qualifications they were presented to be more in line with what the executive assistant actually does.

The standard set by these sort of hum-drum decisions made by the council and the mayor can have a lasting impact. Allowing Altschuler’s request means the city being deluged with similar requests from employees who can make a tangental case that a masters degree could benefit them in their city job, only to really help the employee become more marketable for their next job.

The council should not change its mind on Altschuler’s request.

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