Automatic pay raises and differences of opinion

Last month the Congress of these United States automatically gave themselves a raise in pay. This increase amounted to $4,700 per year, bringing their annual salaries to $174,000 for all 535 House and Senate members, costing taxpayers more than $2.5 million. This was a 2.8 per cent increase while millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are barely surviving on unemployment.

At the same time, American senior citizens, 12 per cent of whom are living below the poverty level and one-third of all seniors depend on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. The did get a raise this year of $63 per month while appropriate medical insurance costs and general costs of living rose far more in comparison.

As you contemplate the unfairness of the above numbers and people involved, it isn’t difficult to understand why senior citizen groups support three bills that are before the House of Representatives, all of which would prevent any future pay raises for Congress to go into effect automatically.

Actually, the Congressional pay increases go into effect only if the Congress to pass legislation to prevent the increase. Needless to say, there’s nary a politician alive today who would even jokingly suggest introduction of such legislation. So when your Congressman or Senator tells you that they didn’t vote for a pay increase, they’re right, they didn’t. But they didn’t vote to prevent it.

Back here, close to home is an almost identical situation that continues to take place, every year and we, this year, have a chance to put a stop to it, if we only will.

I’m talking about the rhetorical question I asked in my column on Wednesday about whether or not our Aldermen, Mayor, city staff members and city employees were going to receive a raise in pay. Obviously, we all knew the answer, but you have to ask since our municipal raises all come automatically through some manipulation of the process, thanks to our city attorney.

Herein lies the attraction for re-election to a seat on the Board of Aldermen, for the position of Mayor or Police Chief, you get automatic raises without having to explain to the taxpayers why and how much, and your salary, in most cases ,is in an amount that puts it in the top 10 percent of the cities in the State of Mississippi.

Many cities in our state have or will freeze salaries for elected officials, appointed officials and  city employees. Not New Albany, we just gave our Mayor, our Aldermen, our appointed officials and employees a 3 percent raise, .2 percent higher than the automatic raise Congress gave itself. In this economy, with the delays in Toyota related progress, this 3 percent should contribute to a city tax increase before the end of the year, for sure.

No one really begrudges the city employees, the workers who actually contribute to our well being, a raise in pay. Most of us in the private sector wish we could have one too. No, we really begrudge any more money paid to the already exceptionally high salaries currently being drawn by city officials and their appointees.

Union County officials and employees will have the opportunity to receive an already prescribed $50 per month increase in pay to take effect upon the beginning of the County’s fiscal year which will be, I believe, at the start of October, 2009. By paying a flat dollar amount to all, the percentages will range across the board, depending on what each employee is currently being paid. It’s a $600 per year increase anyway you describe it.

Union County Supervisors will discuss and approve or not approve the impending increases in pay for themselves and the county’s employees in open session and will, I would assume, entertain questions or comments from citizens of Union County in attendance. I’ll try to find out when they will address this pay increase issue and we’ll let interested citizens know so they can attend that meeting.

On another subject, at least one of the merchants who apparently was involved in the current school merchandise delivery promotion I wrote about in Wednesday’s column, took offense at what I said and threatened to throw our newspaper rack into the middle of the highway if we didn’t come pick it up. He claims he was slandered and libeled by insinuations that the promotion was aimed at the children in our schools. Actually, he is partly correct, the promotion was obviously aimed at the parents.

Throughout this promotion, there has been reported misunderstanding that our city school system sponsored this promotion. My information is that it did not, but the school board did, with good intentions, make it possible. The promotion is/was an advertising offering from a Tupelo-based publication, not the Main Street Organization and not The Gazette.

Our newspaper rack has been relocated and The Gazette, will be available at that outlet starting today. Though it is always disappointing when people demonstrate a misunderstanding of the right of free speech which we share  as Americans, when it does happen, I usually advise that a good rule of thumb is that if you are sensitive about the public knowing what you are doing, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.