Aldermen eye $9.2M budget – Board included in pay hike plan

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brookhaven aldermen Monday moved quickly through a proposed $9.2million new year general fund budget and appear close to approvalafter making a few changes last night.

Three percent raises for aldermen – who added themselves tosalary increase plans for city employees, an additional $12,000 forChristmas decorations and some other adjustments were approved.Even with the modifications, new year revenue is expected to exceedexpenditures by over $100,000.

“We’re going to be in the black and that’s really good,” saidMayor Bob Massengill, who praised aldermen for making “wonderfulstrides” during the budget work session last night.

Overall, the fiscal year 2007 budget is almost $1 million lessthan the current year, due mainly to some major grant-funded andward improvement projects that were accomplished this year and willnot have to be done next year. The new year budget calls for noincrease in the property tax levy, said City Clerk Mike Jinks, whohas been working on the budget plans with the mayor.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Aug. 29 at 5:30p.m., and the board is expected to approve the new budget inSeptember. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Whether to include aldermen in a 3 percent employee pay raiseproposal led off last night’s budget discussion and also generatedthe most debate among board members. Ward Two Alderman Terry Bateswas the first to voice support for board member inclusion.

“We didn’t do it last year. What’s going to happen is you’regoing to get behind,” said Bates, alluding to maintainingBrookhaven aldermen salaries comparable to those in similarly sizedcities.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell then spoke out for 9 percentraises for the board, which Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Esteslabeled as “excessive.” A 3 percent raise would increase analderman’s salary from the current $14,016 a year to $14,436, whilea 9 percent hike would up it to $15,277 a year.

“It hasn’t been anything done in three to four years,” saidMaxwell about the last raise action.

With employees slated for 3 percent, several officialsquestioned Maxwell’s higher suggestion for board members.

“I do feel if we made it 9 percent, there’s going to have to bean awful lot of explaining done,” said Massengill, who rejected anysuggestions about raising the mayor’s salary.

On that point, Maxwell said an injustice could be done to somefuture mayor by not going along with regular raises. He indicatedsome department heads’ salaries could eventually catch up to themayor’s.

“I knew what the mayor’s pay was when I came into thisposition,” said Massengill, who suggested a pay raise plan could beapproved to take effect at the beginning of the next term.

The discussion then returned to comparisons of Brookhavenaldermen’s pay with those of other cities. There was somedisagreement between board members regarding Brookhaven’sranking.

“There’s not many towns of our size that pay a lot more than wedo,” Massengill said.

Citing that the last raise was four years ago, Bates and someboard members advocated annual smaller raises rather than largerones after a number of years.

“If we missed a year, that’s our own fault,” said Ward SixAlderman John E. “Buddy” Allen.

Finally, the consensus of the board was to approve 3 percent foraldermen.

Estes said that was fair given that the board was makingprogress on addressing a number of city concerns and in light ofhigher expenses. Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron and Maxwell addedthat the job was not about the pay.

“It’s not for us, it’s for those who come after us,” Maxwellconcluded.

Regarding employee raises, there was some brief discussion aboutwhether to enact a performance-based plan or to again implementraises across-the-board. Massengill said he was still working onaspects of the performance-based plan.

“I don’t know if we’re there yet to base it on performance,” hesaid.

In other general fund budget matters, city officials will see ifthe county will help with a parking lot paving project for thelibrary. The board held off on adding any funds for that recentrequest from the library.

“I would like to be able to help them on some of it,” Maxwellsaid.

The Chamber of Commerce appropriation includes $12,000 more formarketing efforts related to the new business park. The increaseraises city support for the chamber from $36,000 to $48,000.

“If we get an entry, it will be dollars well spent,” Cameronsaid of the marketing money.

After an initial allocation of only $6,000 for downtownChristmas decorations, Cameron suggested the board increase thatamount. He mentioned smaller cities that have more attractivedisplays than Brookhaven.

“We’re giving everybody else money, why not do something for theCity of Brookhaven,” Cameron said.

Massengill said some of the city’s decorations are missing. Hesaid mayoral assistant Jimmy Furlow, who died last year, stored thedecorations somewhere and other city officials have not been ableto find them.

In other budget areas, Massengill pointed out plans for newequipment purchases in several departments. He said he hopes toinclude funds for new equipment in the budget every year.

The mayor also pointed out higher planned expenditures forlights and other utility costs.

“Utilities are up considerably,” Massengill said. “That is oneof our major increases in cost.”