published Friday, October 12th, 2012

Fort Oglethorpe to redo budget for pay raise policy

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Ronnie Moore

Fort Oglethorpe must reboot its budget process after a majority of city councilmen voted down a proposed budget to rework the way raises are given.

The budget would have given an across-the-board 3 percent raise to all of the city's employees.

Even though the budget will be reworked, it will include raises, Mayor Lynn Long said.

"City employees can take a deep breath," he said. "They will get a raise next year. There's no question about that."

Long thinks a 3 percent raise is OK for hourly employees, but he wants to see a plan put in place to handle pay hikes differently for salaried employees.

"There's a great difference in a guy that makes 10 bucks an hour and a guy who makes $90,000, $91,000 plus fringes," Long said.

City Councilmen Louis Hamm, Charles Sharrock and Johnnie "Red" Smith voted against the budget at its third and final reading.

"The budget itself was OK — except the pay raise," Smith said Thursday. "We just wanted to pull the pay part out and look at it separate."

City Manager Ron Goulart said he was taken by surprise Monday night when the trio turned down the budget.

"I didn't have a clue that was going to happen," Goulart said.

The councilmen hadn't commented about raises at the prior two budget meetings, he said.

"I just assumed it was smooth sailing," Goulart said.

He said he plans to propose the exact same budget, but put the amount for raises in an escrow account so it's there when the city figures out how to handle the salary hikes.

If the council had tabled the budget instead of voting it down, Goulart said, he could have made that change and council could have passed the budget at its next meeting.

Now, he said, the city must go through the entire process of running legal notices and holding three public hearings. The first public hearing will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Councilman Smith doesn't think redoing the budget is a problem.

"I don't see where it is," he said. "It gives us more time."

Unlike many Georgia cities that start their fiscal year on Oct. 1, Fort Oglethorpe's fiscal year starts Jan. 1 and runs the same as the calendar year.

Under city charter, the budget needs to be complete by Dec. 1. Raises usually are given in March.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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