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City enters budget homestretch

After a three-hour meeting Monday that included talks on citysalaries and benefits, the Brookhaven officials are entering thehomestretch of the budget process.

While no major decisions were made, a lengthy discussion focusedon whether city worker salaries should be raised 75 cents an houror a dollar an hour and on certain aspects of the city healthbenefit plan.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he would rework the city salaries onemore time before Tuesday night’s public hearing on the budget. Thepublic hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the city boardroom.

The board had currently proposed an increase of 5 percent forworkers who have been with the city for more than 15 years and 6percent for those who have been there less than 15 years. Mondaynight, however, officials discussed a 5 percent raise fordepartment heads and a per-hour raise for other employees.

By Massengill’s computations, increasing full-time cityemployees salaries by a dollar an hour would amount to a $2,080raise per year. A 75 cents per hour increase would be a $1,560raise per year.

“We want to be fair to our employees and spend our city’s taxdollars the best ways we can,” said Massengill.

Insurance was a major topic of discussion, too, as Brookhaven isone of only a few cities in the state that pays any part ofemployees’ dependent coverage. For three years, the board has beenworking to shift the burden of dependent coverage to the employee,as most other municipalities and private businesses do.

In addition, the city is hoping to get premiums down and isshopping around for what could possibly be a better insurance planor company for the city.

City Clerk Mike Jinks said he has researched several companiesand has presented those options to board members for their perusaland approval.

“Right now we have insurance with Great West and we got theirrenewal on the plan that we have. And in an effort to try to reducepremiums, we had them quote us several options,” he said. “We alsogot quotes from Blue Cross and United Health Care.”

He said part of what has made the process so lengthy is all theaspects that must be compared when considering different plans.

“It’s hard to compare because you’re not always looking atapples and apples,” he said. “We’re looking at some policies withco-pays. There are some new companies that have differentstructures with drug cards. My hope is by the end of this week wewill come to some sort of consensus about where we’re going withthe insurance.”

Jinks said at this point it looks as though the city will askthe employees to pay half the dependent coverage and all of thedependent dental coverage.

“We just won’t know how much that will be until we pick aninsurance policy,” he said.

The board also discussed a projected new year budget deficit,which tentatively sits at $563,505 after projected expenditures of$10.3 million.

Massengill pointed out, however, that there are carry forwardfunds from the current year that will override much of thatdeficit. In addition, Massengill and Jinks have set the figures atthe projected lows on income and highs on spending in order to haveroom to move.

Officials stressed that budget figures are still tentative atthis point and subject to change. The city’s new fiscal year beginsOct. 1.