PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg City Council Tuesday approved the first reading of an ordinance to indefinitely suspend longevity pay for city employees.
Council unanimously approved the first reading but not until a debate over whether the automatic raises should be done away with entirely.
Last year, council did not include the automatic longevity raises for city employees in its 2012-13 budget. The longevity pay would have increased employee pay by 30 cents an hour each year of service. Council later voted to suspend the increases for a year.
At Tuesday's meeting, Councilman John Kelly argued members needed to take a more definitive approach.
"We need to quit suspending it from year to year," he said. "Eventually there needs to be something done with this."
Mayor Bob Newell said he believed longevity pay should not be eliminated entirely, only suspended.
"This is a tool in the toolbox," he said. "Down the road I suspect we may want to bring this back in some form or fashion. I'm against doing away with it entirely."
Councilman John Rockhold and City Attorney Joe Santer said the ordinance as written would not eliminate longevity pay but also would not require an annual vote.
"This suspends it until further action from city council," Rockhold said.
"It will come back if council chooses to bring it back," Santer said.
The ordinance will be up for a second and final reading at council's April 9 meeting.