01/20/05 — Council ponders raise for employees

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Council ponders raise for employees

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 20, 2005 2:17 PM

Three members of the Goldsboro City Council said this week that they aren't ready to give city employees a cost of living raise, but they agreed to consider the matter again in February.

City Manager Richard Slozak recommended giving employees the increase, after presenting the council with a positive six-month financial analysis during a briefing earlier this week.

Councilmen Chuck Allen, Bob Waller and Jimmy Bryan said they believed the council needed to spend more time thinking about the proposal.

"It will cost us about $200,000 this fiscal year," said Waller. "But it will be more than $400,000 for the next fiscal year. I think we need to look at this carefully."

Councilmen Don Chatman, Jackie Warrick and Charles Williams wanted to give the raise in February. Mayor Al King also supported the increase. It would be the first pay raise for city employees in three years.

"I think we should be very careful about procrastinating on this," Williams said. "The employees have done a splendid job and since we have the capability, I don't think we should hesitate."

Bryan said he thought the council should wait for input from the new city manager regarding any pay raises for employees.

Joe Huffman, the new city manager, is scheduled to take office on Monday.

Williams asked why the council had to wait for the new manager.

"I thought this council was supposed to make those decisions," he said.

City employees received cost-of-living increases every year from 1971 through 2002, but haven't gotten one in the past three years because of the sluggish economy.

The city completed a wage comparison study in late 2003, finding that 80 percent of its workers weren't being paid wages comparable to surrounding counties.

Salaries for those employees were adjusted in early 2004, but Williams pointed out that still left 20 percent of employees that didn't get a pay increase.

"But they were where they needed to be," Bryan said. "They were compensated."

Last year the council put $10,000 in the budget to look at an advancement program, which would allow employees to move from one step to another on a pay scale.

Slozak said the study had just been completed, so the new city manager would have to be the one to implement the recommendations.

Allen said he would rather wait until the city could implement the advancement program before approving a cost of living increase.

"I'm not saying they (the employees) don't need it," Allen said. "I'd just rather wait for the results of the study."

Bryan added, "The timing here is important. That's the issue."

Warrick said he didn't think the study results and the cost of living increase were related.

"I think we need to give the pay raise now," he said.

Chatman, the city's former planning director, said he remembered being on the other side and was concerned about morale.

"If there's money available, the council should give it," Chatman said. "Waiting is not going to help."

Slozak "strongly urged" the council to consider a two-and-a-half percent pay increase for all employees effective February 1.

"We have to keep our salaries competitive, and the city's in good financial shape," Slozak said.

The board agreed to consider the matter at its Feb. 7 council meeting.