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City employees, aldermen to get 3 percent pay raise

City aldermen passed a city budget for the 2011-12 fiscal yearby a 4 to 3 vote Tuesday night with no alterations to the budgetproduced in work sessions.

The budget contains $10,794,760 in expenditures and estimatesrevenue at $11,034,000. That revenue figure includes an estimated$1.2 million surplus from the current fiscal year.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron, Ward Three Alderman MaryWilson, Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes and Ward Five AldermanD.W. Maxwell voted for the budget while Ward Two Alderman TerryBates, Ward Six Alderman David Phillips and Alderman at Large KarenSullivan voted against the budget.

As part of the new budget, the city’s water, sewer and garbagerates will go up by 50 cents each month and city employees,including all elected officials, will receive a 3 percent raise.City employees will also receive a vision insurance plan that willcover one annual eye exam.

Combined, the current minimum charges for water, sewer andgarbage is $39.35. The fee increases will raise that minimum chargeto $40.85.

The Water and Sewer and Solid Waste departments are enterprisefunds and must operate out of the revenue they generate, receivingno additional appropriations from the city.

Maxwell said that while the fee increases are necessary, hesuggested the board take steps in the future to prevent furtherincreases, if possible.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls about this,” Maxwell saidspeaking of the fee increases.

Maxwell said that in the future “we need to look at this, seehow we can cut it. Maybe we could go to once a week on garbagepickup. That would save some money every week.”

Bates said the small increases every year are preferable towaiting until the city is forced into large increases.

“We raised it by $3 once. That’s when people want to shoot you,”Bates said.

On the point of a 3 percent raise for city employees, Phillips,Estes and Sullivan all voted in the negative.

Maxwell offered an amendment to reduce the amount from 3 to 2percent, which failed.

After the meeting, Maxwell pointed out that had the threealdermen who voted against the raise supported his amendment, a 2percent raise would have won the majority.

“They could have done something about it,” Maxwell said. “In ourlast work session Shirley (Estes) and Karen (Sullivan) voted for 2percent, but tonight I couldn’t even get a second.”

Estes explained herself by stating that she could not vote forthe raises, whether 2 or 3 percent, because aldermen were included.She explained that while a 2 percent raise would have saved thecity some money there were other issues she felt it was importantto make a statement about.

“I decided to take a stand on principle,” Estes said. “But I didvote for the budget as a whole, even though it included the raises,because it is part of my obligation to the city to pass abudget.”

Maxwell explained the city has always made raises “across theboard” rather than leaving out certain groups.

“If you exclude certain groups, or make the raises wait untilthe next term, some groups get behind,” Maxwell said. “If we didn’traise it a little every year, at a certain point we might have toraise the aldermen salaries 10 percent.”

Tuesday night, the board also heard from Brookhaven/LincolnCounty Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey. He said the citymight receive a grant that would assist in the purchase of weathersirens.

The board previously amended the current budget to allocate$30,000 for the purchase of a weather siren and the new budget setsaside $35,000 for weather alert systems.

Galey requested the board hold off on the purchase of any sirensuntil he knows whether the city will receive the grant.

He said the money already earmarked could be used as matchingfunds under the grant he has applied for. Galey hopes six or moresirens could be installed.

“I truly believe we will get it this time,” Galey said. “I willknow in a few months and we could potentially have sirens up by theend of the year.”