Cost of city employees’ raises debated

Published 8:39 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

Economic conditions are still on the minds of Bainbridge City Council members, who discussed whether or not the city’s government could afford to give its employees 3 percent raises.

The council ultimately decided, in a 5-1 vote with Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer dissenting, to tentatively approve the raises to be given beginning in March 2011, about halfway through the city’s 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The plan is to wait until next February to look at the city’s revenue trends to see if they meet the projections the city’s new budget is based on.

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According to City Manager Chris Hobby, the budget projects that revenue will remain the same as in 2009-2010. However, zero percent revenue growth was also projected for the previous fiscal year and it actually fell by about 2 percent. Two years ago, the city narrowly avoided a budget shortfall after revenues fell by about 8 percent, largely due to a sharp decline in sales tax receipts.

Now that the economy has shown some signs of recovery, Hobby said he believed the city could afford to give its employees raises. The city will save about $87,000 by waiting until March to begin the raises. That savings will be returned to the city’s reserve fund, along with approximately $150,000 that will be generated by levying an additional half a mill on city property taxes, according to Hobby.

An estimated $238,903 will be returned to the city’s reserves, to help shore them up after they had been drawn upon to make ends meet for the past three years, Hobby said.

Mayor Edward Reynolds defended the millage increase, which he said came after the city had reduced its millage rate for numerous years in a row. Reynolds said he believed the city’s employees had earned their raises in part by working hard to reduce spending and operating costs “very creatively.”

Councilwoman Palmer, who voted against the millage rate increase in August along with Councilman Phil Long, said Tuesday night she wondered whether the intent of the increase was to pay for the raises, which were proposed in two of the three budget options proposed by Hobby.

Palmer said she would be in favor of the raises if they could be given without the millage increase.

Councilwoman Glennie Bench said she believed city employees, who had gone without raises for several years, were deserving of them. Bench said she thought the idea to hold off on the raises until March and only give them if revenue was coming in as expected was fiscally responsible.

Ice vending machine purchase tabled

In other business conducted at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the council tabled consideration of a bid for an ice vending machine intended to be installed at the Earle May Boat Basin.

Emerald Coast Ice Vending of Moultrie, Ga., had submitted the low bid of $126,597.

Councilman Long made the request to table the bid, saying he would like to see more figures and explanation from Hobby.

Hobby said the ice vending machine was anticipated to go into the Boat Basin in conjunction with the opening of three new multi-lane boat ramps.

Councilman Joe Sweet said he was concerned that the city would be competing with local businesses who already sell ice.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• Amended its alcoholic beverage licensing fees. A permit to serve or sell alcohol at a one-day, non-profit special event will cost $100. A permit to serve or sell alcohol at a catered event will cost $50, the maximum allowed by Georgia law, according to Hobby. An additional fee of $100 will be charged for late renewals of any alcoholic beverage license.
• Appointed, by unanimous vote, Joe McGlincy to the Bainbridge Tree Committee.

Bids and Bills

The council approved, by unanimous vote, the following bids and bills:

Bills: $19,160.78 from Key Risk of Greensboro, N.C., for workers’ compensation settlement.

Bids: $4,575 from Neil’s Measurement Service of Pelahatchie, Miss., for testing and calibration of water meters; $38,879 from Tal Bot Tennis of Marietta, Ga., for new surface coating associated with the new basketball courts at the Bill Reynolds Sports Park.