Council majority backs ‘compromise’ on raises

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town_tupelo_greenBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A majority of Tupelo City Council members voiced support Monday for a “compromise” plan to raise most city employees’ pay by 1 percent after the mayor withdrew a section to increase a department head’s pay by 31 percent.

Two council members withdrew their opposition to the plan that cuts four positions from the city’s general fund budget to help pay for the raises. They changed their minds after Shelton agreed to remove a provision to increase the salary of the city’s personnel director by nearly $20,000.

Cassandra Moore, the city’s only African-American department head, currently receives $55,620 annually, the lowest among city department heads and $13,905 less than the second lowest paid, City Clerk Kim Hanna.

Shelton said the personnel director position should receive compensation comparable to other city department heads and that he won’t stop pushing for the increase in pay.

“In all candor, I plan to present a budget amendment at our next meeting to solely address the HR position,” Shelton told council members today.

The plan council members will vote on today is expected to save $74,901 in personnel costs.

Shelton, council members and City Attorney Ben Logan will not receive raises with this vote.

Councilmen Mike Bryan of Ward 6 and Jim Newell of Ward 3 will support the plan for pay raises with Shelton removing higher pay for Moore, who will receive a 1 percent raise like other employees. Their support creates a council majority willing to pass the plan.

Council members Willie Jennings of Ward 7 and Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 also support the plan. Councilmen Markel Whittington of Ward 1 and Lynn Bryan of Ward 2 said last week they opposed the plan, saying deeper personnel cost cuts could provide larger raises.

Council President Nettie Davis will abstain from voting since her daughter works as a records clerk in the Development Services Department.

Among the four positions proposed for removal, two are filled in public works, one is a civilian police job and the current city engineer position will transfer to the Major Thoroughfare Program’s budget. Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris will also leave the city’s payroll, leading City Clerk Hanna to absorb CFO work. However, that department is expected to request creation of another position, as a top assistant to Hanna.

This budget plan is part of Shelton’s effort to lower overall city personnel costs while also providing pay raises to employees, who last received raises in October 2011.

Providing 1 percent pay increases for city employees costs $174,000, Hanna said.

Shelton said he plans to bring the council additional plans throughout this term to trim personnel costs and seek more pay raises.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com