By JB Clark
TUPELO – The Tupelo City Council will have the opportunity to vote on a plan that would give city employees a 1 percent pay increase while actually reducing the city’s personnel costs by just over $1,000.
Mayor Jason Shelton presented the plan in a Tuesday work session, telling council members the raise is made possible by removing four currently vacant positions in the city budget.
The raise would include all employees paid from the general fund but exclude the council and mayor. City Attorney Ben Logan also requested not to be included in the raise.
Two currently vacant positions in the public works department and one vacant civilian position in the police department would be eliminated under the new budget amendment.
The cost of a fourth position, engineer, would be absorbed by the Major Thoroughfare Program, which utilizes the position.
The city’s chief financial officer, Lynn Norris, would leave the city payroll. City Clerk Kim Hannah would be promoted to handle both the clerk and CFO positions and Norris would utilized in a consulting role on an as needed basis. Prior to Norris’ most recent stint with the city he served as a consultant to many local municipalities.
With the savings at CFO, a deputy clerk would be added at a lower cost to assist with the city clerk’s added workload.
The reduction of the positions would save the city $179,634 which is enough to give 1 percent pay raises and have $1,046 left over in savings.
The plan also includes a raise for the human resources department head, bringing the position’s pay even with all department heads at $73,000.
Councilman Jim Newell expressed concern that the pay raise does nothing to decrease the percentage of the city’s operating budget spent on personnel.
Shelton said he plans to continue to have budget reduction and position evaluation meetings with department heads to decrease the personnel commitment but wants to see the city’s employees taken care of. Shelton said he plans to look into duplicated services within the city and comp-time as areas to save money on personnel moving forward.
If approved at the next council meeting, the pay raises would go into effect for the following pay period.
Council President Nettie Davis said she cannot vote for the raises due to a family member who works for the city but expressed her support for the proposal.
Councilmen Willie Jennings and Buddy Palmer also expressed their support for the proposal.
Shelton said city employees’ last pay raise was a 3 percent increase in October 2011 for the 2012 fiscal year.