Council cuts raises from budget

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CORINTH — The City Council made a few last-minute amendments to employee compensation in the city’s operating budget before approving the budget during Thursday night’s meeting.

Council members decided to eliminate the 2 percent merit increases and use funds allocated for the increases to go toward adjusting pay compression.

According to city staff, the city had $55,000 originally allocated to go toward the merit increases. The city also decided to use $20,000 from the council contingency budget to add to the salary compressions, giving the city about $75,000 to use.

Council member Lowell Johnson made the motion to make the amendments for a couple of reasons.

First, he said he doesn’t support the merit increases yet because he wants to first develop an accredited merit review system that’s fair and that will help protect the city from any legal action.

Johnson also said that the city has a “serious compression issue and it needs to be fixed.” Simply put, salary compression refers to small pay differential among positions, despite experience or skill level.

The amendment was approved in a 4-to-1 vote with council member Joe Harrison voting against the measure.

Council member Mike Amason has voiced his support of improving the compression since joining the council in May.

“It’s no secret that I’ve been for this,” he said. “I think it allows us to do what the city originally set out to do when each employee was hired.”

In additional to addressing compression, the budget already included an approximate $200,000 compensation plan for general, police and fire personnel, based on a compensation study the city completed earlier this year.

The study was conducted by Ray Associates Inc., and the company surveyed 12 other cities to help Corinth officials determine where they rank in terms of salaries and benefits.

And Corinth officials agreed to work toward bringing city employee salaries to the 50th percentile.

“This is the result of four or five years where there was very little in employee compensation,” Mayor Paul Ruggiere said. “As the budget has been tight, we had to alter benefits, and that has impacted employees. This plan isn’t scientific or perfect, but we were able to give our input and it’s a good objective way for our employees to be compensated.”

Back in 2005-06, the council approved a seven-year step plan, and the last year that plan was funded was 2008-09.

Then, for about three years, the city froze the plan because of economic troubles that hit the city and state. City council members are hoping that the adjustments to staff pay will improve morale.

“We’ve talked about this for several months,” council member Randy Gibbons said. “I think it’s a good way to get us back on track and empower the city manager and city leaders to correctly compensate the employees.”

In other business, the council also approved the 2013-14 operation budget in a 4-1 vote with Harrison against. Some of the items included in the budget included $40,280 for an applicant tracking program for Human Resources, $145,000 for power stretchers for the fire department and replacement of carpeting in City Hall. The budget also includes a transfer of $800,000 from the city’s General Capital Project Fund for a public communication system upgrade and future capital projects.

“This has been a great process,” Ruggiere said.

Council members also approved a tax rate of 60.489 cents per $100 valuation. The tax rate should generate $8.6 million, of which $6.5 million is budgeted to support general fund services and about $2 million is budgeted for debt service.

The City Council also approved an agreement for server hosting and information services with the city of Denton. According to the agreement, the contract period is from Oct. 1 through September 2018. Denton may increase the fees for the renewal term. The annual expenditure for the first year is $127,720.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.


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