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Rising personnel costs get officials’ attention

Some Brookhaven officials are taking a closer look atpersonnel-related expenses as health insurance costs take a biggerchunk of the budget each year.

In addition to a health insurance plan renewal with a 24.7percent increase, aldermen are also considering employee pay raisesof 3 or 5 percent for the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Somealdermen have expressed concerns about the city’s ability to coverinsurance costs and provide raises.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to do both,” saidAlderman-at-large Les Bumgarner.

In the current year, 60.44 percent of budgeted departmentaloperating expenses go toward salary and benefits, including groupinsurance and retirement.

Pay raise decisions for next year have not been made.

A public hearing on the new year budget is scheduled for 5 p.m.Thursday and will be followed by a budget work session. Aldermenmust approve a new budget by Sept. 15.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill has also mentioned risinginsurance costs. He said he understands that the city covering theinsurance cost increase does not put any more money directly intoemployees’ pockets, but it still helps the city worker.

“That’s a raise in and of itself,” said Massengill, adding thatinsurance is a great benefit for employees.

Under current rules, full-time employees’ insurance costs arecovered 100 percent by the city.

Employees pay $54.94 a month, with the city covering the rest,to have dependent coverage. All employees do not have dependenthealth or dependent dental coverage.

For a current city employee making a starting salary of $6 anhour, a 3 percent salary boost next year combined with citycoverage of higher insurance costs would translate to an overallapproximately 9.75 percent raise. If that employee also getsinsurance on dependents, the raise equals roughly 14 percent.

At a recent board meeting, Bumgarner suggested providing the 3percent raises and raising employees’ contributions for dependentcoverage to $100 a month. City Clerk Iris Rudman-Smith said therehas been no other discussion on the option of adjusting city andemployee insurance payments.

“What we pay for is up to the board,” Rudman-Smith said.

Regarding pay raise possibilities, Smith said Mayor Bill Godboldhad asked budget writers to calculate 3 percent raises for allemployees and 5 percent raises for department heads. It was unclearWednesday under what percentage aldermen and the mayor would fallif they choose to include themselves in pay raise plans.

“We’re going to have options when we come Thursday,”Rudman-Smith said about pay raise decisions.

Speaking about differences in insurance benefits and pay raises,Bumgarner said all employees benefit from a pay raise, whilecovering health insurance increases will benefit some employeesmore than others. Another aspect of the situation is that askingcity employees to contribute more for insurance could nullify anypay raise they may get.

With new insurance rates locked in, Bumgarner said the questionthis year is raises. While insurance costs are eating away morerevenue, Bumgarner supported helping employees as much aspossible.

“I’d like to take care of our people as best we can,” Bumgarnersaid. “They’re your most important resource.”