In a meeting in early October, a seemingly last-minute disagreement about how to handle employee raises stalled the adoption. In the past, as in the proposed budget, the method used is a standard three percent raise across the board.
Council members Charles Sharrock, Louis Hamm and Johnnie “Red” Smith voted against the budget, while Earl Gray and Eddie Stinnett voted for it. The vote followed a third and supposedly final public hearing on the budget.
The new budget year begins Jan. 1, but the city’s charter calls for the budget to be approved by Dec. 1. Three public hearings are required.
Ron Goulart, city manager, said he met with department heads in July to discuss the method for raises and there appeared to be no disagreement at that time.
In an effort to address the dissension and get the budget balanced in a timely manner, Goulart said he has now separated the money allotted for raises and placed it into a contingency fund.
" The money for the raises is still there " Goulart said. "The councilmen can reconvene and discuss it and disperse the funds however they see fit in March."
Sharrock has said the current method of a three percent raise "across the board" isn’t fair because department heads are making more on raises than rank-and-file workers.
Smith, who also rejected the proposed budget, said the city needs a “top-out” plan on raises.
“Many of our salaried workers are making in excess of $60,000 and our hourly workers are at $22 per hour with overtime," Smith said. "We cannot afford this.”
Stinnett, who voted for the proposed budget, replied, “I don't see anything wrong with being a best-paying city.”
Stinnett pointed out that recently it took $80,000 to replace one employee. “Knowledge is what you pay for. I think you all are still in the horse-and-buggy age and we ought to be driving a Cadillac.”