Newell: Proposed raises paid for through savings

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg City Council will consider $765,000 in pay increases due to reclassification of positions or raises this year as part of the proposed 2013-14 budget.

Mayor Bob Newell said those raises have been made possible through hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings due to attrition, the combining of positions and reduction of the city’s debt.

“Last year in my budget message, I asked city council not to do anything with wages at that time because I wanted to settle some of the city’s debt before we did anything,” Newell said. “I didn’t want it to come from the increases in revenue, I wanted it to come from within due to savings. Last year the council voted for a 20 cent increase.”

Since then, Newell said, the city has managed to free up hundreds of thousands of dollars through changes in jobs and the elimination of debt. The city freed up $160,000 a year by paying off the city’s recycling center and a new baler, and paying off debt for fire department equipment.

The city also paid off a nearly $40,000-a-year lease on software and saved $148,000 a year with a general liability insurance rebid.

Already this year the city has saved $125,000 by eliminating and combining positions, and Newell said a planned reorganization of the public works department will result in annual savings of $300,000.

Since he became mayor more than eight years ago, the city has saved $1.3 million due to reductions through attrition and combining positions.

The Parkersburg City Council Personnel Committee Tuesday approved a plan to reclassify about 40 positions within the city, in most cases resulting in pay increases.

Those changes will now go on to the full council for approval

The reclassifications were included in the proposed 2013-14 budget presented Tuesday evening to council.

Newell said the changes are intended to bring base pay rates into line with similar positions at other cities. The move will make recruiting for jobs easier and help the city retain qualified employees, Newell said.

In some cases the base pay rate placed employees below the national poverty line of an income of $23,000 for a family of four.

Newell said each step in classification equals about 50 cents an hour pay difference.

The changes total $84,868, and with benefits added in account for $106,085 in the proposed budget.

Newell said the budget also includes a $2-an-hour pay increase for all police officers, a $1-an-hour increase for all firefighters and a 70-cent-per-hour increase for all non-civil service positions.

Once benefits are calculated in, the total pay increases amount to about $765,000 a year, Newell said.

Two positions are being looked at for a reduction in pay. A benefits/legal specialist position would drop by one classification – a 50-cent-per-hour reduction – and a fire department administrative assistant would drop by two classifications, or $1-per-hour.

In both instances, the changes would not take effect until the current employee vacates the position and a new person is hired.

Newell said he expects the raises to be a topic of discussion during the upcoming budget hearings, but said it is a discussion he welcomes.

“I’m ready and able to defend the increases,” he said. “We’ve reduced the city’s debt and found savings due to attrition, and our city employees have been the ones behind getting that done because they’ve taken on more responsibilities. They deserve a raise.”