Council member Louis Hamm, during the council’s Feb. 11 meeting, proposed an even, across-the-board raise — 75-cent per hour for all city employees.
City manager Ron Goulart had been asked, during council budget talks last year, to prepare a salary increase plan and have it ready by July, mayor Lynn Long said.
“We have not seen a pay plan,” Hamm said, “and that is why I am coming here tonight with this amount.”
Hamm’s proposal hit a snag when council member Earl Gray questioned whether it exceeds the proposed 3-percent raise — and the funds set aside for that raise — in the city’s 2012-13 budget.
“That (Hamm’s proposal) would be an amount substantially over what we have in the budget,” said city manager Ron Goulart, whose plan was to give a 3-percent raise across the board.
Goulart said a 3-percent raise equals $101,978. Hamm’s proposals, he said, is estimated to be $169,000, which does not include taxes, insurance and retirement. With those items factored in, Hamm’s plan comes to about $200,000, according to Goulart.
Timing has become another factor in giving pay hikes. The council had previously agreed to wait until March to give raises because of two uncertainties: the citizens’ vote on SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) and the on-going negotiations over LOST (local-option sales tax). Depending on voter approval of SPLOST and how talks go on LOST, these two items could have a significant impact on the budget. Gray suggested that the plan for salary hikes be tabled and brought back in March, when the council would be aware of any impacts to the budget from SPLOST and LOST.
“When you are dealing with public money, it is best to check twice and cut once,” Goulart said.
When the topic of salary increase was placed on the council’s agenda this month, Goulart requested information from Hamm in order to be prepared at the meeting. Hamm allegedly refused to provide any figures to Goulart prior to the council meeting. “I was denied the opportunity to see how the projected raises would affect the budget,” Goulart said.
All council members agreed that salary raises for city employees is a priority, but the budget appeared to be a point of controversy.
“I am not objecting to giving raises. I am objecting that this (Hamm’s proposal) just came up,” Gray said. “If we are not careful, we are going to end up just like our president by spending money we can’t afford.”
The council agreed to table the item and give the city manager and finance director a chance to calculate any changes in the budget. Employee raises will be placed on the agenda for the next council meeting, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m.