Another week, another discussion, and still no consensus from the Chattanooga City Council on how best to apportion funds allocated for employee raises.
Council members gathered in their boardroom once more Tuesday morning to hear the next round of recommendations from Mayor Ron Littlefield on how to divvy out $3 million of next year's budget to cover the pay increase. The issue has divided the council since they received the mayor's budget proposal last month.
Originally, Littlefield suggested $2.86 million of the $209 million city budget be used to pay for the increases. Tuesday morning, he said his administration would be willing to raise the total amount to nearly $3.2 million.
Of that amount, $1.3 million would go toward funding the Police Department's career ladder program; another $1.3 million would go toward a 3 percent, across-the-board increase for civilian employees; and $675,000 more would go toward longevity pay for all employees, at $75 a year.
The mayor did not say where the extra money taking the amount over $3 million would come from, only telling council members that his administration would "surgically excise here and there" from areas of the budget.
During his presentation, Littlefield called the proposal "fair and balanced" and said that any of the city's employees who had not received some form of a pay increase since 2008 had not done anything to merit a raise. Forms of an increase listed by the mayor included career ladder programs, pay anomaly corrections and raises as a result of graduation from training academy programs.
"When you get down to it, there are only about 100 people out of all of these civilian and sworn employees who have not received anything," Littlefield said. "And the hard thing to say—and it is a fact—is most of them have not received anything because they haven't done anything. If you have a career ladder, it's incumbent upon those who have a career ladder to climb the ladder, step up on the ladder."
Despite the mayor's recommendation, several council members suggested alternatives to the plan. City Councilmen Andraé McGary and Peter Murphy said they thought funding suggested by the mayor for the police career ladder program and longevity pay should remain but that the $1.3 million marked for raises for civilian workers should instead be used to cover a 1.5 percent pay raise for both sworn and unsworn city employees.
Councilwomen Deborah Scott and Pam Ladd said they favored granting the suggested $1.3 million to the police career ladder program and $1.3 million for the 3 percent civilian raise, but would prefer to leave out funds for longevity pay.
"It's a difference in philosophy," Ladd said.
Councilmen Jack Benson and Manny Rico said they agreed with the mayor's plan, and Councilman Russell Gilbert along with Councilwoman Sally Robinson said they would need more time to review the issue.
Councilwoman Carol Berz did not state an opinion regarding the matter.
The council is set to vote on the first reading of the operating budget during their Tuesday night agenda session. If a consensus is not reached on the salary increases by then, they will have one week to decide on how best to allocate the funds before the budget's second reading and final vote next Tuesday.
The 2012-13 fiscal year begins July 1.