• 70°

Officials mull worker pay during budget talks

Employee salaries were on the agenda for Tuesday night’s boardof aldermen budget work session, but no specific numbers have beenfinalized in the proposed spending plan for the city’s new fiscalyear.

The board discussed the possibility of raises, based on employeetenure, in different city departments. They also raised thepossibility of wage increases in some departments, such as policeand fire, that received officials’ recent attention because oftheir pay schedule in comparison to cities of similar size.

Numbers were also tentatively plugged in to increase boardmembers’ salaries by 4 percent. Currently, an alderman makes$14,436 a year, which would rise to $15,013 a year if approved.

Mayor Bob Massengill said human resource expert Ken Barlow willbe in Brookhaven to talk to city offcials Wednesday morning todiscuss pay raises and how the city stacks up against othercities.

Massengill said, however, that discussion will be centered onhow to get the wages up, and it might include taking a hard look atthe city’s current policy of paying for dependent coverage for itsemployees.

Brookhaven pays a substantial amount toward dependent coveragefor city employees, but it has taken a chunk of the budget thatsome believe could have been put toward wages. Aldermen plugged ina $100 a month tentative increase on dependent coverage in order tostart whittling down the amount the city pays on the dependentcoverage.

Aldermen pointed out that a worker with dependent coverageactually receives a greater portion of the budget than a workerwithout dependents. At this point, it could even amount to hundredsof dollars more per month, officials said.

The revenue items in the general fund of the budget includedmuch-awaited sales and property tax estimates.

So far in budget planning, the newly acquired annexation landwill be bringing in around $575,000 in propety taxes, Massengillsaid.

While City Clerk Mike Jinks said definite numbers will not be inon the sales tax income until September, officials believe it couldbe around $425,000 a month in total citywide sales taxcollections.

“That wouldn’t be unrealistic,” said Massengill. “We certainlyhope it will be greater. We’re having difficulty getting accuratenumbers.”

Numbers were plugged into the budget for the next year offunding for the Lincoln County Public Library and theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, but not without somediscussion.

Library officials had originally asked the board for $104,000,which put them over last year’s budget of $97,000. Massengill said$100,000 had been budgeted for them for the next year.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said he would like to see a copyof the library’s budget from last year to assess spending in thepast.

“I’m the first one to want to give money to the libraries,” saidMaxwell. “But how are we spending it right now?”

The Chamber of Commerce got another tentative $12,000 boost thisyear, going from the $48,000 it received from the city last year to$60,000 this year.

Alderman at Large Les Bumgarner asked why the city had grantedthe chamber such a large jump in the funds.

“Because we are notoriously low in what we give to our chamber,”said Massengill, who said other cities give their chambers moremoney.

Discussion also centered on funds for paving city streets, withtentative numbers floating between $25,000 per ward to $40,000 perward.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said the overall budget forpaving needs to be at least $500,000, which others felt wascost-prohibitive.

The current suggested $320,000 paving budget is divided betweenthe six wards, the alderman at large, and the mayor. Ward TwoAlderman Terry Bates said the money should be divided only betweenthe six wards, adding that to give money that could be arbitrarilyused in whatever ward Massengill or Bumgarner might choose is notfair.

“It needs to be divided six ways so everyone gets their equalshare of the pavement,” said Bates. “And it can be Les and themayor’s job to make sure we get it done.”

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson agreed.

“Most of the money goes to Ward Four because you all live inWard Four,” she said.

Bates spent at least a portion of the pavement money he wasalotted last year on ditch work, which Massengill reminded him.

“I couldn’t do pavement with the little money I was given,” hesaid. “I did ditches.”

Bates also renewed concerns regarding the recreation department,basing his comments on the A.L. Lott Youth Baseball program thatdid not happen this year and his desire for a swimming pool.

Bates said in spite of the fact that the recreation departmenthas its own board of directors, the city should be able to dictatetheir spending.

“This half a million dollars says I’m their boss,” he said.

Jinks clarified to Bates that once the money is alotted to thedepartment, the city no longer has a say in the spending.

Maxwell again pointed out to Bates that the problem in the A.L.Lott program is the lack of participation by the neighborhood.

“I haven’t heard the first good idea come from you about this,”said Maxwell. “When you come up with it, I will listen.”

City Attorney Joe Fernald pointed out that Major League Baseballhas released studies that baseball is dying out in the blackcommunities.

Massengill reiterated his stand that the city would like to haveprograms that can provoke the community to get involved.

“I’d love to have a program that attracts not only the youth buttheir parents,” said Massengill, although adding that help would beneeded to bring that about.

The other point of contention was the controversial swimmingpool issue. Bates said he was tired of hearing statistics about howa swimming pool will not work.

Maxwell suggested speaking to the Boys and Girls Club or the OFoundation about running a community swimming pool, since the citycannot because of the liability.