Board plans 5 percent pay raises for all

Published 6:30 pm Friday, August 27, 2010

Unless something drastic changes, all city employees, includingboth the Brookhaven Police Department, mayor and the board ofaldermen, will receive a 5 percent raise once the new fiscal yearkicks in Oct. 1.

Thursday night’s public hearing on the budget drew two members ofthe public: one a Brookhaven police officer and one perennialconcerned citizen, Johnny Perkins. Perkins grilled the board onseveral items listed on the agenda, including this year’s hot topic- police salaries.

“This is a unique position and should be considered separate,”Perkins said. “The police department is in a different category,like the fire department, than the guy who sweeps leaves and theother unskilled labor.”

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell chimed in that he believesBrookhaven’s salaries to be competitive with other cities ofsimilar size.

Perkins pointed out that the police department does not justcompete with cities of similar size. He said most police officersget their start in a municipal or county department, but as theymove up the ladder, they’ll move to bigger and better things.

Perkins said the point is to let Brookhaven have the best possiblepolice department in order to help counteract crime and keep thecommunity quiet and safe like it has always been perceived tobe.

Mayor Les Bumgarner pointed out that sometimes it’s not the size ofthe police department that counteracts the crime.

“I don’t think the police department is as involved in our safetyas the revolving door of criminals walking in and out of prison,”he said. “They’re letting people back out on the street every daybecause of money.”

Perkins admitted that part of the burden does fall back onmunicipal judges and other officials.

“We can’t control that, but we can have the best policemenpossible,” he said. “The pay scale doesn’t lend us to hiring guysthat are certified, because they don’t have to go to smallercommunities. They can go to a larger community. We’re not justworried about McComb and Natchez. This is about optimizing ourpolice force.”

In the end, however, city officials stuck to the 5 percent figurefor police raises, as well as that amount for all other cityemployees, including elected officials.

Aldermen salaries will go from $15,917.28 to $16.713.14 with theadditional percentage. The mayor’s salary goes from $61,880 toabout $65,000, the city clerk’s pay is up from $58,656 to $61,680,and the police chief’s salary goes up from $58,052 to about$61,000.

Perkins said he doesn’t believe anyone but the police departmentneeds a raise this year with economic conditions like theyare.

“We don’t know what the next year brings, and it seems to me unlessthere’s an urgent need for it, giving any pay raise is uncalledfor,” he said. “I’d have to question that.”

But, Bumgarner pointed out, the raise only actually increasessalaries 2 percent after the 3 percent rise in retirement.

“Some of the thought process on the 5 percent across the board isthat we’re taking out 3 percent more because of retirement,” hesaid. “If we didn’t give the raise it would be a 3 percent cut. Sowe’re back even, then there’s a 1 percent raise for last year, and1 percent for this year.”

The board also briefly discussed the fact that many city workersare still working for under $10 an hour, and some of them areveteran workers. This led to talk about individual workers andtheir situations, until board members realized that to pick andchoose employees for merit pay on such short notice could be amistake.

“Once you move one person, you’ve got a can of worms,” the mayorsaid, adding that the board should obtain the name and salary ofeach individual worker from the department heads, and carry onthose discussions over the next year.

“I’d like to see us study this, but I think we should’ve done italready if we wanted to do it for this budget,” said Ward FourAlderman Shirley Estes.

Meanwhile, the city will absorb an almost 8 percent increase ininsurance costs without transferring any additional expenses onemployees. The cost on the drug card will go up slightly, butotherwise insurance will remain the same, City Clerk Mike Jinkssaid.

The board has to approve any wage increase before they can vote onthe budget as a whole.

The general fund budget is expected to be around $10.3 milliondollars, said Jinks, with the water fund around $2.18 million andthe solid waste budget around $1.36 million.

The budget must be approved by Sept. 15, and aldermen expect tovote on it at the Sept. 7 board meeting. Oct. 1 is the start of thecity’s new fiscal year.