City employee pay raises sparked a discussion questioning Mayor Jimmy Tramel's motivation.
In approving the proposed city budget for this fiscal year, a proposal was made to give all city employees a six percent pay increase and eliminate the sick leave buy-back option.
“I certainly believe they deserve a raise but not the way it is presented here. There is concern there will be people abusing sick leave and causing problems with overtime,” said council member Drew Stott. “This doesn't give an incentive not to misuse it.”
When conversation about the pay increase originated at the city budget committee meeting, Tramel mentioned a 2008 city ordinance relating to pay increases.
The ordinance states that any pay increase for city employees will automatically be given to elected officials including mayor, city treasurer, city clerk and police chief.
“It's almost a conflict of interest because the one presenting the pay raise will be getting a higher pay raise,” said Stott. “Maybe that's why it has been pushed.”
Tramel said he would address the subject, as it was directed at him.
“I did not have that intention. Our employees deserve that raise. They need the money when they start. We did what we could,” said Tramel. “I think it's a slap in the face to only give them two percent if we can afford more.”
The mayor’s salary will be $74,670 with the raise, an increase of $3,505, which is not six percent of his previous salary, $71,165. The mayor’s increased salary had already been included in the budget. Tramel said if the council did not approve the raises, he would move the money (raise) into the general fund.
Tramel pointed out that most companies do not have a sick leave buy-back.
Council member Leonard Barnes asked how much time the council had to finalize the budget. He was told the budget had to be finalized during the Tuesday meeting. The budget has to be approved allowing enough time to be published in local newspapers by this weekend.
“I concur with Drew. I'm in favor of them having raises, but on this buy-back deal, like I've said before, use it or lose it. That's how most companies work,” said Barnes.
“When you ran for office, you knew you were in there for four years at the same rate,” said Barnes. regarding to extending the raise to elected officials.
Council member Greg Rosamond said retirement accounts should be considered as a long-term factor in the decision.
He said the city matches retirement accounts and that pension is based on salary. A raise simply means a higher salary and therefore a larger pension.
Rosamond said the average city employee is paid approximately $30,000 a year, so a two percent pay raise results in an additional $20 per paycheck, which an employee would barely notice.
“I'm of the opinion that if we can, we should,” said Rosamond.
Stott said he was simply voicing employee fears, and voted no on the motion to approve.
With Stott being the only vote opposed, the motion to approve the general fund budget was approved.
Outside the meeting Tramel said he was offended by Stott's accusations.
“If I was motivated by money, I would have stayed at American Airlines,” said Tramel. “My motivation is doing the best I can for the city of Pryor.”
Tramel said it would be “a slap in the face” not to give the employees a raise.
He said the raise did not become an option until the $500,000 oversight was found from the last fiscal year’s budget. The discovery the town has a half million dollars it did not know it had will make the raise possible.
“It's not about me. My motivation is the quality of life in Pryor, I want the best for the city,” said Pryor.
The budget for each department was divided into separate agenda items.
Stott voted no on the Pryor Recreation Center, Public Works Authority, and the E-911 budgets. He was the sole no vote and each motion passed without further conversation.
On the city pay plan, Stott was joined in voting no by Barnes.
Stott took issue with the city building inspector/code enforcer salary as it was not corrected on the draft being approved. The motion was amended to approve the pay plan with the amendment that the building inspector will stay at his current pay for four years. With only two votes against, the motion was approved.
Motions to approve the contract negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge were passed. Stott's vote no. These contracts were discussed in executive session.
The council discussed the proposed expenditure of $25,331.77 to replace tile flooring at the recreation center to include the logo.
Tramel recommend the purchase go to Heritage Flooring, “for the good of the town.” He said that one bidder could not work at night and the other was uncomfortable constructing the logo.
Council member Travis Noland pointed out that the proposed cost to include the logo in the tile work is vastly different from one bid to the next. He asked what the most accurate cost was. Noland also wondered if was a worthwhile investment.
Tramel said the recreation center board wants the logo included. With all council members voting yes, the motion was passed.