City pay-raise plan outlined

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A possible solution was presented to fund a salary increase for city employees at Thursday’s City Commission meeting.
City Manager Joe Thomas said $1.1 million is needed to fund the salary increases.

The city’s revenue review committee concluded a reallocation of a tax levy, capitol outlay cuts for the police and fire departments, and increases in service fees could produce upwards of $700,000, according to Thomas.

An additional $400,000 would have to be generated through a 2 mill levy on property tax, Thomas said.

“We have a lot of fine employees within the city, and it is important that we realize that and do everything we can to try to benefit them as much as possible,” Thomas said.

City Commissioner Randy Crowder thought the commission should at least consider scaling back city services. He cited the efforts of federal and state agencies to reduce taxes through cuts.

“Before we approach raising taxes on people, do we have time to have a discussion on the possibility of cutting back on services?” Crowder asked.

Thomas responded that because of city growth, the city will need additional “resources” to even maintain the current level of service.

“I think that would be very unpopular with the citizens,” Thomas added. “They are accustomed to at least one level of service, and of course, in most cases they would prefer a high level of service.”

Thomas urged the commission to consider the plan fully before making a decision. The actual proposed actions will not be on the agenda for about a month, Thomas said.

“I think I’ve come up with a proposal which is worthy of your serious consideration,” Thomas told the commission. “I think it is a fair overall plan that deals with a multitude of issues. I feel like if we do anything less than what I’ve outlined that it will be viewed by the employees as being insufficient.”

City employees complained last fall that they deserved a pay raise, especially after the police department received one. However, not knowing just where the money would come from, the city commission established a revenue review committee to find funds for the purpose of a salary increase.

Under the proposed plan, city employees would receive an additional 25¢ per hour for cost of living allowance and 16¢ per hour for every year they have held the same position. Those numbers would be prorated (18¢ and 11¢ respectively) for the fire department personnel, Thomas said.

About $300,000 would be used for performance based increases and another $300,000 would be used for an anticipated bump in health insurance costs.

The revenue review committee plan included rededicating 1 1/2 mills of property tax to the general fund, raising $420,000. Reducing police and fire department capital outlay could produce about $140,000. Other proposals would generate about $140,000 and include fees increases, among others.

Mayor David Lansford said the plan was brought at the study session so the public can be aware of what the commission is considering.

Other events at the meeting:
• The commission was presented a detailed update of the Easter New Mexico rural Water System project.

• April 17 was named “Lady Wildcats Day,” in honor of the basketball team’s perfect season and state win.

• Fire department personnel Steve Garcia and Mike Leatherwood received clocks for their distinguished service to the community. Lt. Ron Banister was recognized for 30 years of service at the department.

• As part of the consent agenda, the commission established regulations and controls for excavation of playa lakes.