Oxford considers lean budget, despite being 'OK' this year

OXFORD – Mayor Pat Patterson says that despite having no particular immunity from the worldwide recession, Oxford’s revenues should meet municipal needs in the upcoming fiscal year – and beyond.
“We’ll be OK this year,” he said Wednesday in a budget work session at City Hall. “Unless the bottom falls out again, we’ll be OK again next year.”
Still, Patterson and the city’s aldermen see ways to trim future budgets even beyond the cuts already proposed for FY 2010, or at least to slow some increases. One proposal was that the city outsource services that could be better fulfilled by private contractors.
Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow suggested that virtually automatic raises have bloated some departments.
“When we first started on the board, our budget was about $12 million, and now we’re up to $20 million,” she said.
Ward 2 Alderman E. O. Oliver added, “A blanket raise should come only during an exceptional year when we can afford to do it.”
Patterson noted that several departments have nominated about 30 percent of employees for merit raises this year. He asked aldermen to support the idea that merit pay raises any given year be limited to 5 percent of any department’s work force.
“That really puts the burden back on the department head to identify the superior employees,” he said.
Director of Public Works Bart Robinson said merit pay is crucial to keeping such employees.
“Merit is just what it says,” Robinson said. “If I’ve got a guy getting more done, putting out more effort than the guy next to him, he needs a merit raise.”
Patterson noted that with 358 employees, Oxford’s municipal work force is larger than most nearby cities of comparable size. He suggested that attrition and transfers be used over the next four years to trim staffing by 10 percent.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal