Board should note who’s footing bill

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

When it comes to budget work, maybe the Brookhaven mayor andboard of aldermen could learn a lesson from their neighbors to thenorth in Wesson.

Citing a tight budget for the upcoming year, Wesson officialslast week voted to rescind pay raises they had voted themselvesalong with a state retirement package for the mayor. While wescolded the Wesson officials for increasing their pay effectiveOct. 1 — our belief is that an incumbent board should never raiseits own pay — we now commend them. They recognized the possibilitythat the town could not afford the pay increases without raisingtaxes. The Wesson board deserves praise for putting the town’staxpayers first.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the Brookhavenaldermen.

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Despite a 24.7 percent increase in the city’s health insurancefor the new fiscal year, the board is still considering giving cityemployees and themselves a pay raise. They have also asked thecity’s budget writers to calculate the results of raising thestarting pay for city workers from $6 an hour to $7.

With annexation expenses, pressing equipment needs and asanitation department that can’t make ends meet, giving any payraise this year can only be described as fiscally foolish.

To the aldermen who say $6 an hour is low pay, we remind themthat it’s above the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. We alsoremind them that the city picking up the tab for the employees’insurance equals pay of $8.58 an hour. Beginning Oct. 1, it willequal pay of $9.24 an hour.

Under the current plan, the city pays all of the employee’sinsurance premium, which totals $5,383 a year for full coverage.For fiscal year 2004, that is expected to go up to $6,751 ayear.

For full dependent coverage, employees pay $54.94 a month andthe city covers the remainder. That cost is $11,156 this year andscheduled to be around $14,097 next year.

City workers are also getting a bonus with the insurance’soutdated $250 deductible.

Add all this together, and city employees do enjoy what onecitizen last week called a “Cadillac” plan with full dental care inaddition to coverage for medical and prescription drug expenses.And, because it is free to them, they have no incentive to cuthealth care costs.

To the aldermen who say “we need to look out for the employees,”we remind them that their first priority is to the taxpayers ofBrookhaven. It’s their money you’re spending. They will have to mopup the red ink.