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Citizens air objections to pay raises

Citizens of Brookhaven had a chance to speak out Tuesday nightat a public hearing on the budget, saying for the most part thatthey do not want to see city officials take a raise during the2009-10 budget year.

“I have to say each one of you volunteered for and can leavethis job any time if you feel the compensation is not adequate,”said concerned citizen Johnny Perkins. “But this is not the time tothink about a salary increase for the supervisory people I’mtalking about now, the mayor and board of aldermen.”

Perkins also pointed out that employees of the city are costingthe city more than just their salary when benefits, retirement andFICA are figured in. Perkins told the board he felt like a raisefor city employees is an irresponsible move with the currenteconomic state.

“I don’t think it’s wise, I don’t think it’s prudent, or goodbusiness practice,” he said. “I don’t think this is the time to askfor a pay increase for yourselves and the other employees.

Brookhaven resident Brian Moore, who ran for Ward Three aldermanearlier this year, brought up some aldermen salaries he hadgathered from comparably sized cities.

Moore cited cities like Cleveland, which is comparable in sizeto Brookhaven, but aldermen there make $3,000 a year. McCombaldermen make $8,400, he said, and Moss Point aldermen make $8,700per year.

Moore compared those numbers to the $15,917.28 that Brookhavenaldermen make, saying that for any of them to be pushing for araise is offensive.

“I understand the guy that changes the streetlight and has totake care of his family – I understand a cost of living raise forsomeone like that,” he said. “But you ran for this position, andyou’re a civil servant, and this cost of living raise is offensive.As a taxpayer I consider it offensive. The average Joe that doesthe work should get the raise, not this board right here.”

Moore also pointed out that Natchez has just recently cut theiraldermen’s salaries 10 percent.

“They took a 10 percent decrease to help the budget,” he said.”Why don’t you guys toss that around? Fifteen thousand is wellabove the median.”

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell told Moore he had picked thewrong cities, implying that the numbers were chosen from the lowend of the pay spectrum of comparably sized cities.

“When you get elected, if you ever do, I hope you take as manyphone calls as I do,” Maxwell said.

Moore told Maxwell he does take a lot of phone calls, because hedoes a lot of volunteer work.

“I volunteer for a lot of things that I don’t get paid for,” hesaid.

Brookhaven citizen Wesley Kent said aldermen should be able tovote for the next raise, but it shouldn’t go into effectimmediately.

“I think when you run for an office you know what it’s paid, andyou should be satisified with that,” he said. “I think it ought togo into effect the next term.”

In other budget hearing appearance, Sandra Gerald, whostridently opposed a city annexation that took effect in 2007,brought a list of questions for aldermen and city officials. Thequestions ranged from police protection to the Brignall fire loopto paving.

Gerald told aldermen she did not want to see the city increasespending if it would not directly affect and help annexationareas.

After the public hearing was over, aldermen continued debatingpay raises, finally deciding to ask City Clerk Mike Jinks to runthe numbers to figure in everything from no raises for city workersto a 3 percent raise.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips said he will vote for a raisefor the public works director and nobody else at this juncture,while Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron held that while aldermenshould not have a raise but city workers deserve one. Ward FourAlderman Shirley Estes said the city should hold off on raises atthis time.

Maxwell said the 3 percent raise would only be around $3,000altogether for the aldermen’s portion and wouldn’t hurtanything.

Bates said he would support either no raises across the board,or 3 percent across the board, but that everyone should get thesame raise.

Estes suggested a straw vote, but Ward Three Alderman MaryWilson said she would not take a vote yet.

“I don’t have a problem with a straw vote, I just don’t want todo it tonight,” Wilson said.

They also discussed holding off on raises now, and revisitingthe issue if sales tax collections pick up later in the year.

Aldermen agreed to think about the options over the next weekand discuss it further at next Tuesday evening’s regular meeting.If need be, that meeting will be recessed and they will come backthe next Thursday.

The budget has to be voted on by Sept. 15. The city’s new fiscalyear starts Oct. 1.