EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include the correct appropriations for the library and Parks and Recreation Department. The figures listed in a previous version were incorrect.
SYLACAUGA – The City Council adopted a $14.6 million budget for 2017 that includes a 3-percent cost-of-living raise for full- and part-time employees at the library and in the Parks and Recreation Department. It also includes a 3-percent raise for part-time city employees.
In addition, the council added $30,000 of its surplus to absorb some of the increased costs for employees with family insurance.
The council passed the budget in a 4-1 vote, with council President Rocky Lucas voting against it. Lucas said he voted “no” because of the $30,000 addition for insurance costs. Lucas was not at the work session Monday night when council members decided to put the $30,000 in the budget.
“As a council, they voted to put the $30,000 back. I disagree,” he said. “I’m in the health-care business and I see where insurance costs are going. I thought we should let employees pay a portion of the increase, so down the road when more increases come, they had an opportunity to get used to it.
“We keep absorbing these increases. It just makes sense to me to start passing it along a little at a time.”
Over the past two years, the council has absorbed a $203,000 increase in insurance, and it can’t keep doing that, Lucas said.
Cost for family coverage, he said, is $225 a month or $112.50 a pay period. The cost increase would have employees paying $182 a pay period, or approximately $160 more a month.
The budget included providing insurance at no cost for single-coverage employees.
Total revenues are $14,669,584, while expenditures are $14,642,972, leaving a surplus of $26,612.
The Police Department received $3,257,841 in appropriations, while the Fire Department was allocated $1,445,396; Street Department, 41,719,194; Administration and Finance, $2,157,589; Animal Shelter, $180,277; and contracts with agencies, $1,140,303. The Parks and Recreation Department got a $836,488 appropriation, and B.B. Comer Library received $625,110.
On the Parks and Recreation and library 3-percent raise, Lucas said the council couldn’t give the increase to employees. The increase would be passed on to the boards of those departments, which will have to decide whether to approve them.
Also, Lucas said all departments and contracts with the city are being level-funded again this year. He said he didn’t agree with level funding and hopes the next council will evaluate and take a look at this area of city government.
The current council and Mayor Doug Murphree will leave office Nov. 7.
Lucas thanked all the employees in the City Clerk’s Office, Murphree, council members and human resource specialist Jayne McGee for their work on the budget.
In a related resolution on the budget procedure, the council approved giving city employees step-raises every two years instead of every three, which has been the municipality’s practice.
The 2017 budget includes a 3-percent raise for those employees eligible for step raises.
For more on Tuesday meeting, see Thursday’s Daily Home.