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Board finalizing new year budget work

A proposed city budget for the new yearwould enact 3 percent pay increase for all city employees,including aldermen and the mayor; add vision insurance for cityemployees; and raise fees for water, sewer and garbage by 50 centseach, following the latest discussions during a Tuesday night worksession.

    The budget for the city’s new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, islikely to pass at the next scheduled board meeting on Tuesday. Thebudget for that year must be passed by Sept. 15.

    At last night’s session, Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan opposedincluding aldermen in the pay increase plan.

    “We’re not full-time employees,” she said. “We don’t get up and gethere at 8 in the morning like everyone else does.”

    In a series of informal votes held to determine what pay raisesCity Clerk Mike Jinks should indicate on the budget that will bevoted on next week, Sullivan tried to separate out the issue ofaldermen raises.

    “I want to vote for the raises for the employees, but against theraises for us,” Sullivan said. “I can’t do that that if you keep itall together.”

    Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell vocally opposed Sullivan’snotion.

    “No, we’re going to keep it all together, and it’s going to passlike it always does,” Maxwell said. “If you don’t want your raiseyou can write a check and donate it back to the city.”

    Currently, aldermen make $16,713.14 a year. The proposed raiseswould bring that number up to approximately $17,047.14.

    The raises would bring the mayor’s salary to $66,275 from thecurrent yearly pay of $65,000.

    Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes also opposed an alderman payraise, but no one else specifically opposed the aldermen raise.Ward Six Alderman David Phillips, though, repeatedly voiced hisbelief that no one should receive a pay raise this year.

    “We’re going to raise the cost of employment, and we’ve got no newrevenue coming in. At some point we’re going to be like the federalgovernment,” Phillips said. “I guess I don’t have the board’ssupport for a 0 percent raise.”

    In response to Phillips, Mayor Les Bumgarner and Ward One AldermanDorsey Cameron both pointed to the higher costs of living,particular higher costs of gas and food.

    Bumgarner, who does not vote on the city budget, indicated a payraise of no more than 2 percent was necessary. Sullivan and Estesechoed support for 2 percent.

    However, in an informal vote, Cameron, Ward Two Alderman TerryBates and Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson united behind a 3 percentraise. Phillips did not vote, and Maxwell first voted for 2 percentand then switched to 3 percent.

    A 3 percent raise will cost the city $225,000, according toPhillips.

    “I understand everyone wanting to help the employees,” Phillipssaid. “But somebody at this table has to represent thetaxpayers.”

    To this, Cameron pointed out that no one came to the public budgethearing and said if citizens have concerns, they should make themknown.

    “They hired you to represent them so that they don’t have to comein here,” Phillips said to Cameron.

    No one except for Phillips opposed a vision insurance plan, whichwould cost 81 cents per employee per month and cover one annualexam for each employee.

    The city’s fees for water, sewer and garbage service will eachincrease by 50 cents under the tentative budget. No one opposes theincrease, expressing consensus that the move is necessary since thewater and sewer and solid waste departments are enterprise fundsand must operate based out of the revenue they generate.

    Maxwell reiterated his insistence that inequalities in distributionof paving funds should be addressed. Among Maxwell’s points ofcontention is that in the current fiscal year’s distribution, WardFour received $114,450 and Ward Five $62,500.

    In previous work sessions Maxwell has threatened to vote againstthe 2011-12 budget if the difference in the funds is not made up,but Tuesday night he did not indicate that he still plans to doso.

    Other new additions to the budget include $35,000 earmarked forweather alert systems, $6,000 for historical markers and $5,000 fora recycling study. No one has opposed these items.