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City workers could get small raise

Although it has not been budgeted yet, city officials are looking at the possibility of giving city workers a minimum of a two percent pay hike in the new fiscal year which begins on July 1.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton presented his proposed budget to members of the city council Monday night and the 2010-2011 spending plan is nearly $1 million less than the current operating budget.
The budget is smaller in large part due to fewer grant funded projects and the elimination of the debt on the expansion of Milestone Industrial Park.
Addleton presented city councilmen with a proposed new pay scale developed internally using pay scale reviews and salary survey benchmarks from studies done by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Electric Cities of Georgia.
The current pay plan for the city is outdated with the lowest starting rate on the scale at $6.57 per hour, a rate lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
“This is something that needed to be done. I don’t believe the pay plan has been revised since 2005,” the city manager said.
The overall consensus of the council Monday night was for Addleton to identify the necessary revenue to fund the revised pay plan, which he hopes will provide, at minimum, a two percent cost of living raise for all city employees.
“I would like the opportunity to try to find the money,” Addleton said.
The city manager believes he can through additional cuts to expenses in other areas of the budget. He also now has access to nine months of actual revenues and expenses, compared to only eight months when the budget proposal was put on paper.
Those employees at the lower end of the pay scale will benefit more than those at the top, according to Addleton. He estimates the annual cost of the pay plan revisions and a minimum of a two percent pay hike to be in the range of $200,000 to $250,000.
Without the pay raises and adjustments to the pay plan, the total budget currently stands at $35,780,084. The total amount requested by department heads was $36,427,096, but Addleton trimmed off $647,012. The bulk of those cuts was $420,000 in capital outlay expenditures the city manager removed from the spending plan.
After Addleton’s cuts, the total capital outlay is $5,486,550. Major projects being funded in the city manager’s recommended budget is the new water well and plant as well as the elevated water storage tank. The only vehicles included in the budget, as it currently stands, are three cars for the police department, a heavy duty pickup for streets & sidewalks and a digger derrick truck for the electric division of energy services.
The city manager is anticipating a hike in the cost of health insurance for city employees, but he is not certain how much that will be.
Mayor Richard VanLandingham suggested that the city manager review the city’s current health insurance offering and compare it with other local employers.
“There is no cost at all to the employee and that is so different from most all other companies. Most plans include some cost the employee must bear,” the mayor said.
He added, “not only do the employees pay nothing but the deductible is extremely low. This is one of the biggest costs we are looking at and we just need to do some comparisons.”
Councilman Ernest Cloud asked if the city manager had ruled out any possibility of the city going to a self-insured plan.
“I’m reluctant to go self-insurance because of our experience with rate of claims,” Addleton said.
“When you don’t pay anything, you don’t think about what it costs. By having the employees pay something, that is one way to get people involved in their health care. They are getting an unbelievable deal now,” the mayor said.
The current deductible for city employees is $250 and Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas, who also serves as the finance director for the city of Camilla, noted that Camilla city employees have a $1,000 deductible and the council is considering raising it.
The city’s cost for insurance rose about 30 percent last year and Addleton is fearful another double digit increase will occur in the next fiscal year.
City Manager Addleton agreed the city needs to look at various options and he has invited Ron Arline, who handles the city’s insurance through United Healthcare, to the council’s May 10 meeting to present alternatives.
A huge plus for the city in the upcoming fiscal year is an approximately $100,000 drop in the amount the city must contribute to the employee retirement plan. Addleton says improvement in the stock market is making it possible for the city to lower its annual contribution as investment income increases.
Addleton’s spending plan does not include a tax increase or rate hikes for city utilities and services. However, the city manager does intend to implement a change in the water and sewer rates.
The city has contracted with Electric Cities of Georgia to conduct a cost of service study for the water and sewer division. Based on those findings, Addleton plans to put in a place a conservation rate and eliminate the first 3,000 gallons in the ready-to-serve rate.
“Whereas the first 3,000 gallons are included in the base fee, under the new rate plan, customers will begin paying for the first gallon of water they use. This will mean a lower cost for customers who use less than 3,000 gallons and will provide an incentive for those customers using more than 3,000 gallons to conserve,” Addleton said.
No additional personnel are recommended in the spending plan and Addleton noted that since 2006 the actual number of city employees had been cut by seven.
A public hearing on the city budget will be held on May 2 and final adoption will take place on June 25. Copies of the proposed budget are now available for review at City Hall.

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