City officials receive automatic pay increases

      When my sister and I would get a bit too hurried in taking care of schoolwork or the household chores we were expected to do, my mother referred to the old saying that “haste makes waste’ in an effort to slow us down and help us do our best work. In this international world economy in which we now live, we could replace that saying with an old Chinese proverb on the futility of hurrying – “A hasty man drinks his tea with a fork.”

     In writing my column for last Friday’s edition, I “drank my tea with a fork,” when I didn’t take enough time to completely proof read what I had written. Unfortunately, as I was describing Union County’s upcoming fiscal year pay raise in October, I mistakenly reported that it would be $50 per month totaling $600 per month, rather than $600 per year. I apologize to those who added that up with the current salary of their favorite county employee and ran down to put in an application. The increase will be good, but in most cases, not that good.

     We finally received the official city salaries as they stand after the “automatic cost of living increase” went into effect on January 1, 2009. This time, some of the extras were omitted, but I put them back in.

     There was a 3 percent increase for all, with the Mayor’s 2009 annual salary going up to $66,552.00. That’s the base pay with the addition of the city paying $3,365.96 per year for “dependents’ insurance and providing a vehicle valued at $31,095.77.

          Aldermen-at-large,  Dan Skinner, Ward  3  Alderman,  Tommie Beasley and  Ward  4  Alderman, Bill Tucker, all saw their  yearly  pay go up from $12,525.83 to the same $12,902.00

However, Ward 1 Alderman, Jeff Olson and Ward 2 Alderman, Larry Sanford, with the addition of the annual health insurance premiums paid for them by the city, each now have total salary and benefits of $16,699.56 (assuming the health insurance premiums will not increase in 2009).

     The only other elected official listed in this most recent payroll report was Chief of Police David Grisham, with a base salary increased from $51,001.45 to $52,531.49.

     The City Clerk, who now holds an elected position in our city, but will become an appointed or employed position after the election, is now paid $54,058.00, as compared with the city’s Fire Chief, Jeff Hale, now at $49,440.00, Street Commissioner, Wayne Treadaway, now at $50,400.00 and Building Inspector, Mike Armstrong now at $36,180.00. Our freshly hired Park and Recreation Director walks into a new job with a new annual salary base of $42,436.00.

     Although on the earlier report, but not on this most recent submission, it can be assumed that the “Retainer/Salary paid to The New Albany City Attorney, Bobby Carter, has gone from $23,468.92 per year to $24,172.99.  

     There is no information at this point as to any changes that may have been made at the start of the year in terms of the hourly rate, over and above the “Retainer/Salary,” to be paid to the City Attorney for the services he provides to the Board of Aldermen and the City Administration. It would follow, however, that with everything else going up at least 3 percent, we will probably be paying more for legal services.

     With small and large private companies all over the nation, furloughing employees and freezing salaries to avoid laying off other employees, it is unconscionable for the elected and appointed administration of a small town to go ahead and raise yearly salaries across the board, particularly when many of the recipients are already paid salaries out of proportion with the size of the city and the means of its taxpayers.

     That’s how our national economy got to where it is today, through the lack of respect and concern about the public which is supposed to pay for all the greed and incompetence demonstrated by government and big businesses. Well, if the bailout/stimulus package benefits were to filter down to New Albany, it won’t be in a form where increases in administrative payroll could be covered. Should there be a clause requiring a city to show fiscal responsibility with the taxpayers financial affairs, this city might not get stimulated at all.

     Taxpayers all over the state and the nation are finally getting fed-up, as they brace themselves to make the sacrifices our President has told us we must endure to make this economic recovery actually succeed. But what about the big banks, big businesses and the government itself, all the way down to the cities and towns? If we can’t show financial restraint in New Albany, Mississippi, at least with automatic pay increases in a year that promises some very hard times for all of us, I can’t see very many sacrifices making very much difference since our own elected and appointed officials are too greedy to hold off their pay raises like many of the rest of us have.

     So, once again, our city officials have shown us why we have elections every four years and why citizens  must be very careful who they place in offices of responsibility.