Board gets first look at new year spending plans

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 14, 2009

Health insurance and pay raises were the primary points ofdiscussion at Thursday night’s budget work session as aldermenbounced preliminary numbers around while trying to put together thepuzzle that is the city’s 2009-10 budget.

Last year’s budget was $10.19 million, and City Clerk Mike Jinkssaid economic uncertainties this year have left him without atarget just yet. But after Thursday night’s work session, thingsare beginning to fall in line.

Jinks said the tax revenue is estimated to increase for 2009-10,but other receipts on the completion of major projects will removeabout $635,000 from spending plans.

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“The budget is going to be less that money,” Jinks said. “Also,your insurance is going up, and we’ve made some changes there,there are increases in wages, and those dollar figures are abovewhere we are in this current year’s budget.”

While a 3 percent raise was pondered for city employees, largerraises in the neighborhood of 10 percent were proposed for somecity officials, including the mayor. However, aldermen pointed outthat the numbers were all early and will be tweaked and worked withas the budgeting process moves forward.

“Still 3 percent on someone working for eight dollars an hour isnothing,” said Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates. “With the higher paidemployees, 3 percent is a lot higher raise.”

Meanwhile, aldermen raises were also discussed, with Ward FourAlderman Shirley Estes and Ward Six Alderman David Phillips sayingthey were against any raise for members of the board.

“I told the voters I wouldn’t vote for myself a raise,” Estessaid. “And I won’t vote for that.”

But other aldermen indicated that they would.

“I’ll vote twice then,”

Bates said with a laugh.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell also indicated support for analderman pay raise along with other city employees.

“The rate of inflation is going up more than 3 percent,” hesaid.

Health care was the other major conversation piece, as Jinkstold the board it needs to be settled as soon as possible so hecould send out open enrollment forms by September 1.

Aldermen decided to continue paying 100 percent of the coveragefor city employees, but to put a $450 per month cap on dependentcoverage. The move would mean city employees would have to coverany amount over the $450 a month.

Insurance coverage for dependents of city employees currentlyruns $971.90 a month, plus around $50 for dental. Of the city’s 158employees, 38 carry dependent coverage at this point, aldermensaid.

“No one wants to put those with dependant coverage out on thestreet, but with the (national) 22 percent increase, that affectsthe ability of this board to provide services for the people of thecity,” Phillips said. “Every municipality and business is havingthe same problem right now.”

Aldermen discussed dropping dependent coverage altogether, butdecided against that option based upon the fact that employees withdependents currently in health crises would have an almostimpossible time finding reasonable coverage for their families.

“If we have a family that has a sickness now, what do they do?”asked Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron. “That’s a cruel way tohandle it.”

Meanwhile, Phillips reminded the board that the money for anychanges they make, whether in raises or insurance or anywhere else,will have to come from somewhere.

“I know it’s all in pencil right now, and we can keep all thatin mind, but we’d better all shop at home hard,” he said, drawing alaugh from the other board members. “I’m not against giving anyonea raise or insurance, but we do have a responsibility to thetaxpayers to balance this budget right.”