By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Kevin Kennedy and City Council remained on the same page as the legislative body went through the administration’s budget proposal in a special all-day Saturday meeting.
Kennedy’s plan includes an estimated $20.6 million in expenditures for 2013. It follows other recent employee contract moves for the city and includes raises for nonelected directors for the city and other nonunion personnel. As proposed, salaries for human resources Director Cheryl Farver, planning and development Director Kim Wenger and safety/services Director Scott Thomas would all be raised to $82,500 annually. The percentage increases were 6.2 percent for Farver and Wenger, with Thomas’ at 9.6 percent. Officials said Thomas’ was higher because he has not worked for the city as long as the others.
“We want to keep our directors in the same salary range as directors in other area communities,” Kennedy said. “We have some very talented directors who do a lot for the city. They were getting toward the bottom of the range for directors in the area, and we want to move them up in the range again.”
Kennedy said his administration is working on making salaries fair again after city employees in 2009 agreed to contract concessions in which they gave up salaries and benefits to help the city combat the effects of shrinking revenues and the Great Recession. The city also laid off five workers each in the fire, police and service departments in 2009 to help combat the tight budgets.
In recent months, the city and several employee unions have agreed on contracts which bring pay rates back to pre-2009 levels and then grant 2-percent raises for the following two years. City Council also was scheduled at its regular meeting last night to begin considering legislation mirroring the union workers’ contracts, which would raise elected officials’ salaries back to pre-2009 levels in 2014 and include raises for each of the next three years. The affected officials include the mayor, finance director, law director, council president and four ward council positions. By law, council and the elected officials’ salaries must be set before their four-year term begins, in this case, in 2014.
The budget proposal also includes funds for continuing major projects such as seeking additional grants and keeping work moving forward on work on Great Northern Boulevard improvements; renovating the police station; moving city trash and recycling pickup to one day a week; preparing to hire three police officers; buying a new fire department ambulance, and other projects already under way.
Saturday was the first time in which the city tried to hold all the department budget hearings in one day.
Paul Barker, the chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, who set the session up, said he liked how it went.
“The administration and council seem to be together on most of this one (budget),” he said. “This worked out well, everything seems to be in order.”
In the department discussion, Councilwoman at Large Angela Williamson asked Law Director Michael Gareau Jr. about possibly utilizing mayor’s court funds to pay for some or all of Prosecutor Michael Gordillo’s proposed annual raise from $39,000 to $49,000. In citing the reason for a raise, Gareau noted Gordillo took on the additional responsibility of dealing with the mayor’s court. However, Gareau noted that salary expenditures had dropped somewhat with Carol Heyward no longer providing as many services for the city. He also said he thinks it would appear better for the city if Gordillo did not have any of his salary derived from the mayor’s court revenues, but instead was paid directly from the law department budget.