August 18, 2017 10:12:46 AM
The Columbus City Council approved $232,616 in raises for employees for the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.
The increases include spot raises for six employees and a general 3-percent raise for all other city employees except police department personnel, who received pay raises last year.
Approved funds for the raises make up roughly 61 percent of the $384,000 expected in new revenue next year from a 2-mill tax increase councilmen approved last week.
Individual raises include $2,500 raises for Community Outreach Center Director Glenda Buckhalter ($29,993 to $32,493), Police Chief Oscar Lewis' Administrative Assistant Sheila Elder ($29,370 to $31,870) and City Registrar and Action Center Coordinator Brenda Williams ($30,347 to $32,847). Maintenance Technician for the Trotter Convention Center Joe Richardson received a $6,116 raise from $27,164 to $33,280 and City Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell received a $5,000 raise from $59,647 to $64,647.
CPD Training Officer Liz Patrick, who has recently taken on duties as the department's inventory clerk, also received a $5,240 raise, from $32,960 to $38,200. Patrick's raise was already included in the Fiscal Year 17 budget.
The council approved the spot individual raises on a 4-1 vote in executive session. The vote breakdown was not immediately available after Thursday's meeting.
Councilmen also approved an contract extension and raise for city public information officer Joe Dillon, who is an independent contractor. Dillon, who was hired in February 2016, saw his pay bump from $24,000 to $32,000. Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle said Dillon's higher pay was already factored into the city's budget.
Councilmen approved the 3-percent and Dillon's raise 3-2, with Ward 3's Charlie Box and Ward 6's Bill Gavin opposing.
Box and Gavin opposed the 3-percent raise for most other city employees -- the first since Fiscal Year 2015 -- which alone will cost the city $209,000.
Gavin said, while he understands the need for raises, he's concerned about the city's ability to pay for them.
"I know people need raises," Gavin said. "I sympathize with them. But we're looking to balance this budget. ...This is $209,000, and that's going to happen every year. Not only are we going to have to pay this year, but we're going to have to come up with it next year. We're having trouble now balancing the budget. Where is this money going to come from?"
Mayor supports pay bump
Mayor Robert Smith, who has pushed for city employee raises since the council began deliberating the budget, said he was pleased with Thursday's votes. However, Smith noted he does not intend for new revenue for the tax increase to only be used for employee pay raises. The city is facing several expenditure issues, including the need for new patrol cars for the police department, new public works vehicles and, in a few years, likely expanding the landfill.
"In each department, there's equipment that and supplies that have to be purchased," he said. "That's what the money will be used for -- I don't want the citizens to think that we asked for a 2-mill increase just to give employees a 3-percent raise."
For the individual raises, he said they come primarily for workers who have taken on extra duties or gone above and beyond what's required of them. For example, he pointed to Patrick, who took on duties as the police department's inventory clerk, and Williams, who he said has not been compensated for working as both the registrar and action center coordinator.
"Pat (Mitchell) has three or four hats she wears," Smith said. "As a matter of fact, she works around the clock, and a lot of the weekends, she's up here. Besides being the human resources director, she handles all the insurance. As far as the extra compensation besides the 3 percent, it's for the people who are doing dual duty."
Smith added the individual raises aimed to bring pay for those workers to similar levels seen in other cities, and Patrick's raise keeps the city from paying to hire an inventory clerk.
Mickens, who appeared hesitant to cast his vote in favor of the raise, said he was conflicted on the issue. He said he understood Box's and Gavin's concerns.
He also pointed to his failed attempt to get a raise for city councilmen in June, before the start of the current term, as part of his reason for supporting the matter.
"If you can vote for yourself to get one, you've got to vote for your employees," Mickens said. "That wasn't my sole reason -- they work hard, they deserve it.
"So much is at stake," he later added. "You want to give them a raise, but I'm listening to my colleagues Councilman Box and Councilman Gavin and they ask some good questions. Where's the money gonna come from? It was a toss-up. It could've gone either way."
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