PARKERSBURG - Members of Parkersburg City Council voted to reinstate a fee Wednesday in order to provide city employees with a pay raise.
City Council, acting in its capacity as the Committee of the Whole, voted to reinstate the floodwall fee and remove a $50,000 allocation to the humane society to provide full-time city employees with a 20 cents-an-hour pay raise.
Council member John Sandy, who made the motions, said the raise will help offset some of the increases in insurance costs as well as the user fee.
Photo by Jody Murphy
Council members John Sandy and Nancy Wilcox discuss the city’s proposed 2012-2013 budget Wednesday during the Committee of the Whole meeting.
"The 20 cents an hour, what it would do for city employees is reimburse them the user fee they are currently paying," he said.
The raise will cost the city $129,000 annually. To pay for it this year, council reinstated the floodwall fee- over the objections of Mayor Bob Newell- and removed a $50,000 earmark for the Humane Society of Parkersburg's spay and neuter clinic.
The motion was approved by a 7-2 vote with council members Sharyn Tallman and John Rockhold voting against it. Rockhold suggested a 10 cents-an-hour pay raise.
Tallman deferred to Newell.
"I believe it should have been his recommendation," she said of Newell. "If he felt we had the money to add in or return money to city employees."
With the implementation of the user fee and the newly created stormwater management utility, Newell proposed removing the floodwall fee.
"I said last year I only favored the user fee if we started reducing other fees," he said.
The floodwall fee, which is paid by businesses and residents in the floodplain, generates $120,000 a year. Newell said many of those paying the fee are low-to-moderate income families. The mayor said it was an unfair tax on certain people and those residents were being double taxed.
"I'm sure people living in Beechwood would like to see their fees reimbursed as well and we aren't doing that," Newell said.
Newell had asked council to consider a different type of pay adjustment for employees, apart from the longevity. The mayor said in the last few years- as the city was cutting positions- a number of employees picked up additional responsibilities. Some employees are doing two, three and four additional jobs, while others have no added responsibility. Yet everyone-the mayor noted- will get a pay raise.
"It robs us of the opportunity to do equitable things for employees," he said.
Sandy and other council members said they plan to revisit the floodwall fee and funding the spay and neuter clinic once officials have a handle on the cash carryover at the end of the fiscal year.
"I have no problem removing the fee," Sandy said. "I think money can be better spent by giving a little bit back to employees and some other line items."
Council also removed $11,000 from the finance department for inventory and put it into the police department's overtime budget to provide security for the Kids First Program. The leftover money, about $41,000, went into the Coal Severance Fund and Capital Reserve.
Councilman Brad Kimes attempted to have funding for Parkersburg Homecoming and the News and Sentinel Half Marathon pulled from the budget. Kimes said he was not opposed to funding the events, but he wanted to find a new way to fund outside agencies, projects and events.
Kimes' motion received the support of only two other council members, Mike Reynolds and Tallman.
Several council members echoed Kimes' call for a new way to fund such things, but maintained the need to support them.
"These are events that fill up our town," Councilman Tom Joyce said. "We will be having this discussion in June or July, and the validity of these events isn't going to change. We should account for these events at this time."
Councilman Jim Reed said it was important to come out of the budget meetings showing support for the two events.
Wednesday's meeting lasted almost two hours. The committee approved a motion to rise and report to council Feb. 28. However, the proposed budget won't be adopted until council's March 9 meeting.