More raises coming for city payroll

By Chris Berendt - [email protected]
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The City of Clinton’s proposed 2018-19 budget includes “substantial” pay increases for employees, the second of a two-year phasing in of salary bumps across the board following the current year’s raises for police and fire personnel. The fiscal plan also encompasses hikes in utility rates and vehicle tag fees.

For 2018-19, the city’s operating budget totals $14,633,200 for all city operations, capital improvements and debt service requirements, up 2 percent from the 2017-18 adopted budget.

The property tax rate will remain at 40 cents per $100 valuation and 18 cents in the Downtown Special District. One penny on the tax rate is projected to generate $77,950. The tax rate is being applied to a total estimated tax base of $779.5 million, a 1.7 percent from the previous year.

Of the roughly $14.63 million proposed plan, the 2018-19 General Fund totals $9,334,500, in line with the 2017-18 adopted budget and a 3 percent decrease from the 2017-18 amended budget. The proposed Water and Sewer Fund totals $5,168,500, up 5 percent from the current 2017-18 budget. There are also non-major fund expenditures of $130,200.

Water and sewer rates are anticipated to rise by 5 percent in 2018-19 to adjust for inflation and ensure adequate funding for future capital projects. They rose 2 percent for the current year. The average monthly utility bill will go up by $2.50.

Water base rates are set to increase from $12.87 to $13.51 and sewer base rates from $13.41 to $14.08. The water consumption rate will go up from $1.93 to $2.03 per 100 cubic feet, and the sewer consumption rate from $1.88 to $1.97 per 100 cubic feet for 2018-19. Water and sewer rates are double for customers outside the city limits.

Garbage collection rates will remain $15.50 per month for residential customers, $4.75 per cubic yard for commercial customers.

Statewide, local option sales tax revenue is projected to increase approximately 5 percent. The city is using what officials call a “modest” 2.5 percent projection. The vehicle tag fee is recommended to increase $5 from $15 to $20.

Last year, the city worked with the Management and Personnel Services (MAPS) Group to develop a Classification and Pay Study. The purpose of the study was to ensure the city is able to recruit and retain employees by evaluating market competitiveness and internal equity concerns such as compression, which occurs when newly hired employees receive the same or similar compensation as more tenured employees.

The study was implemented in phases to reduce the impact. The first phase was implemented for the city’s firefighters and police officers in the current year. Local fire and police officials last year lamented the fact that it had become increasingly difficult to compete not just with pay offered by other police departments in the region, but also with state agencies, such as community colleges and others.

Pay was adjusted for approximately 45 public safety positions in the current 2017-18 budget. That bump came in the form of $253,600 more in salaries and benefits. On average, that translated into an increase of 12 percent for police officers ($170,000 total) and 8 percent for firefighters (roughly $70,000). The balance was used for two reclassified Public Works positions.

“Implementing the second phase of the pay study for the remaining city personnel has been a driving factor in the creation of the fiscal year 18-19 budget,” said City manager Tom Hart. “The City of Clinton is a complex service organization which heavily relies on skilled and motivation employees to deliver high quality public services to citizens. Competitive pay is essential to retaining and recruiting quality team members.”

The second part of the pay adjustment will increase the city’s payroll by another $245,000, or 8 percent.

”The actual pay increase an individual employee receives will be affected by a number of factors,” Hart stated. “On average, employees will see a 5 percent increase.”

While 45 public safety positions were affected last year, approximately 80 positions will be adjusted in the coming fiscal year, the city manager noted.

”The Pay and Compensation study examined the prevailing rates of pay in our labor market and took a hard look at each position to ensure they are properly classified and assigned to the most appropriate pay grade,” he remarked. “Obviously, positions revealed to be the most under-compensated will receive the largest adjustments. The city is also making adjustments based on seniority to avoid salary compression.”

Mayor Lew Starling called the raises “one of the largest increases in history” of the city.

“It is a rather sizable increase,” Hart added.

In addition to the second phase of the pay study, budget funds include a 2.1 percent cost of living adjustment and a merit program that allows employees an average of 0.5 percent merit pay. A 9 percent increase in healthcare costs has been another significant factor in the creation of the 2018-19 budget proposal, Hart added.

A planner position in the Clinton Planning and Development Department has been eliminated for the coming year, a direct result of the Clinton-Sampson planning partnership being dissolved by county officials.

“The city’s stewardship of public funds is among the most important tasks entrusted to us as public servants,” Hart noted in his budget message. “This budget reflects commitment to our strategic goals and strong emphasis on maintaining existing service levels, taking care of our infrastructure and responding to emerging community needs.”

Among other expenditures, the budget includes:

• $40,000 from General Fund to upfit an existing fire apparatus and to replace the city’s truck mounted mosquito sprayer.

• $30,000 from fire tax reserves to continue phasing in new radio equipment for the fire department.

• $17,000 for ceiling-mounted basketball goals at the Bellamy Center

• $139,000 for four police cars

• Converting 4.5 part-time firefighters to two full-time firefighters

• $200,000 in paving funds

• $166,000 two two-ton trucks, to be financed

• $53,000 for sidewalk work

The budget is expected to be adopted during a special session Tuesday, June 19, at the City Auditorium.

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Utility, vehicle tag hikes also proposed for 2018-19

By Chris Berendt

[email protected]

Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.

Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.