After a one-week timeout to consider alternative ways to pay for a suggested 3 percent salary increase for unsworn city employees, city Chief of Staff Dan Johnson returned to Chattanooga City Council members Tuesday and recommended they approve the plan as written.
"The long and short of it is, we're back to the same plan," Johnson said.
A few council members thought otherwise.
More than an hour into their third straight week of discussion regarding the salary increase, Councilmen Peter Murphy and Andraé McGary suggested providing the group with a second option for how to approach the increase. According to the new plan, the $2.86 million allotted for covering the increase would be divided between the originally designated $228,000 in longevity pay for qualifying employees and $1.3 million for the police career ladder program, and the remaining funds would be used to offer even, across-the-board pay raises to all of the city's employees, including police officers and firefighters.
Police officers benefitting from the career ladder program would not receive the increase.
"It's going to be 1 and a fraction percent," Murphy said. "It's not rocket science math … it's going to be 1-point-something, in the ballpark of 1 and a half percent. And it would be to everyone."
If approved, the raise would be the first for city employees since 2008. The group has set a goal of voting on the $209 million budget plan, which contains no tax increases, by their next meeting on June 19.
Police Chief Bobby Dodd, who had previously said that under the original plan more than 200 officers would not get any kind of raise, said Tuesday he would be in support of the alternative as proposed by Murphy.
"I may get murdered for that, but it's a good suggestion," Dodd said.
Certain council members still didn't seem convinced. Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she could not vote for the increases in both salary and longevity pay because it was not similar to the experience of taxpayers, who ultimately foot the bill for the raises.
"My point is, our taxpayers are paying for our compensation package," Ladd said. "Private industry is taking that out of whatever profit they get to pay their employees. So, I feel an obligation to that taxpayer because they're funding what we're sitting here talking about."
The council is expected to vote on a first reading of the operational budget next week.