The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen, meeting in a Monday night workshop on the budget, discussed adopting a new ordinance addressing wages of city employees.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson says the city needs a new wage scale because the existing one is confusing and not equitable to employees. " The old wage chart, I can't make rhyme nor reason out of it, the way the computer was doing the wages and the raises every year. It's just not equitable how these raises are determined. There needs to be something done about it to make it equitable for everybody."
So the mayor has proposed a new "wage chart" which if approved would take effect this budget year, 2010-11. Mayor Hendrixson says under the proposal, pay rates would be based on those in the 2009-10 budget, but there would be a change affecting new employees and the way pay raises are determined. "This is for employees starting after July 1st, 2010. The other employees, their wage will be whatever it is plus either cost of living or step raises."
"I've simplified it. The first four years, you (employees) would get a fifty cents (per hour) a year step raise and you would get it on your anniversary. What's been happening in the past, for someone say starting in August, it would be 23 months before they would get their step raise and I don't think that's right. That needs to be on their anniversary. Then after the four years, there would be a cost of living raise if the board deems that they want to do that every year. I think that needs to be in the ordinance. I don't think it (cost of living raise) needs to be automatic. There's towns around us where employees haven't gotten a raise in three or four years. We're lucky we've given one every year but I believe it needs to be at the board's discretion. There are four salaried employees and I think the board needs to set their salary every year. That's my opinion."
Mayor Hendrixson says wages of city employees are comparable to the pay of other towns and many local industries. In some cases, he says it's even better, considering the benefits. "All of these wages are comparable to any of the factories here or better and are far better than what the county pays. They are comparable to anything around and better than most. And you can add seven thousand dollars a year to each one of these employees for health, life, and dental insurance, that nobody else gets to my knowledge. That's a seven thousand dollar a year perk. When you talk to somebody out of town about this they just can't believe we do this (offer benefits) and there may come a time when we can't, but I hope we can keep it up."
The proposed new ordinance may also require city employees that need certification to become certified within eighteen months of employment. Alderman Aaron Meeks spoke to this issue. "Any employee hired that requires certification, they should have eighteen months to obtain certification. If they don't obtain it within eighteen months they will either be terminated or transferred to another department if we have an opening where they can transfer."
Mayor Hendrixson added that for all new hires " the first sixty days, they need to be on probation, just like we have had it. At the end of sixty days, if they're not working out, they can be terminated at the board's discretion."
Alderman Meeks suggested that a new ordinance be adopted soon to address these issues. " I think we need to draft an ordinance that would replace three old ordinances (regarding wages) to reflect these changes that we've discussed and then I believe we will have a good starting point for our city employees pay scales."
Once the proposed ordinance is drafted by city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. the mayor will schedule a special meeting to consider first reading passage. The new budget ordinance may also be scheduled for passage at the same meeting.
Public hearings and second and final reading passage of each ordinance would follow within two weeks of first reading.