Sampson Independent

Salaries, utility bills rising

The second phase of a City of Clinton pay study implementation, anticipated to give employees a 5 percent raise on average, was approved Tuesday as part of the 2018-19 budget, which includes hikes in utility rates and vehicle tag fees.

The Council approved the $14,633,200 budget for 2018-19 during a brief session Tuesday.

“This is a very responsible budget with no tax increase,” said Clinton Mayor Lew Starling. “It includes a substantial pay bump. I wish we could do more, but this is substantial.”

He praised city staff and the City Council, which adopted the budget in a unanimous vote.

“I say it gets tougher every year,” said the mayor, “and I really think it does.”

The budget, which covers all city operations, capital improvements and debt service requirements, is 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.

Of the roughly $14.63 million plan, the 2018-19 General Fund totals $9,334,500, a 3 percent decrease from the 2017-18 amended budget. The Water and Sewer Fund totals $5,168,500, up 5 percent from the current 2017-18 budget.

Water and sewer rates will rise by 5 percent in 2018-19 to adjust for inflation and ensure 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 will 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. 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, adjusting salaries for 45 positions to the tune of $253,600. 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.

Now approved, the second part of the pay adjustment will increase the city’s payroll by another $245,000, or 8 more percent. Approximately 80 positions covering myriad city departments will be adjusted as a result, following the 45 raises for public safety positions in 2017-18.

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

He called the second phase of the pay study a “driving factor” in the creation of the 2018-19 budget.

“Competitive pay is essential to retaining and recruiting quality team members. 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.”

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 was another significant factor in preparing the 2018-19 budget, Hart noted.

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.

Among other expenditures, the budget includes:

• $200,000 in paving funds

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

• $139,000 for four police cars

• $53,000 for sidewalk work

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

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

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

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

Clinton City Council members look over documents during a Tuesday night session as they prepare to adopt the 2018-19 budget. City Council members look over documents during a Tuesday night session as they prepare to adopt the 2018-19 budget.
City Council approves budget, second phase of pay study

By Chris Berendt

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