Chattanooga City Council taking second look at pay raises

Chattanooga City Council taking second look at pay raises

June 6th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Pam Ladd

Pam Ladd

BY THE NUMBERS

• $209 million: Total city budget for fiscal year 2012-13.

• $1.5 million: Total set aside for across-the-board civilian raises and longevity pay.

• $1.3 million: Amount set aside for police and fire career ladders.

Source: Chattanooga

The Chattanooga City Council will mull over how to divvy out pay raises for another week.

The council took an informal 5-4 vote Tuesday during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting, stating it did not want to consider a 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for city employees that are not sworn officers.

But opinions vary on what the raise should be, if any.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she would rather look at a pay raise system based upon merit. She said it is "horrible" the city did not have a pay for performance system.

"We're stuck at looking at it across the board," she said. "The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer."

The city's administration plans on mulling over an alternate proposal over the next week. The council meets again next Tuesday to discuss the 2012-13 fiscal year budget. The council hopes to vote on it within two weeks.

The city's budget contains $2.8 million for salary increases -- $1.5 million for across the board pay raises and longevity pay and $1.3 million for the police and fire career ladders. The across-the-board pay raise would not be extended to police officers and firefighters, only civilian employees, city officials said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert argued splitting the raises into percentages based upon salaries. He said those making less than $50,000 should get a higher increase in salary than those making more.

Dan Johnson, the city's chief of staff, said the problem is that the city needs to compete for higher-skilled workers as well, such as engineers.

He said it is tough for the city to recruit these kind of specialized fields. "We can hire people all day long for people under $40,000," he said. "We have a waiting list."

In other news, the council received the 2012-13 capital budget. The budget is $50.6 million and includes $8 million to fix the hard edge of the 21st Century Waterfront, $1.6 million for the Central Avenue Extension and $1.4 million for the Hixson Recreation Center. The capital budget is funded by a combination of bonds, operational funds and other tax sources.

The council plans to discuss the capital budget once the operational budget is complete.

The City Council also approved 6-2 with one abstention on proceeding an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to start steps toward building a road extension of Central Avenue to Riverside Drive.

Councilman Andraé McGary, who represents the district abstained. Residents of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association asked the council to reconsider the proposal and instead look at making Lincoln Park, which is on the route of the proposed extension, into a historical site.

"This is the first and only African-American park in the city," said Tiffany Rankins, secretary for the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.


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