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Amended budget would rescind salary increases, restore two police officers

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed amended budget and salary ordinances on second reading this week that would rescind pay increases but restore two police positions.
Board members took the actions Monday night during a special called meeting.
A motion to pass the budget ordinance was offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin.
A motion to pass the salary ordinance was offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by McGhee.
The second readings were each approved by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Chris Ford absent.
The ordinances were passed on first reading at a special meeting last Thursday. They are scheduled for a public hearing and final reading at a July 29 meeting.
A motion offered by Dakin and seconded by Alderman Larry Dagen to amend the budget ordinance by rescinding the 3- and 5-percent salary increases approved in the 2013 fiscal year budget was passed by a 4-2 vote, with Caruthers and Alderman Bethany Huffman dissenting.
In response to a question by Alderman Hank Hawkins during discussion before the vote, Dagen said that action would save the city $291,000.
A motion offered by Dakin and seconded by McGhee to restore two of the three vacant patrol officer positions eliminated from the police department was passed by six affirmative votes.
In response to a question by Huffman, Police Chief Rita Stanback said the positions became vacant after Jan. 1 through “attrition.”
City Manager Thomas Christie said he had encouraged Stanback not to fill the positions because of the “financial woes” that Millington was facing. He also said he did not want to “complicate” that while the board was attempting to debate what the budget should be.
By going to a 12-hour shift in the police department, Christie said, Stanback was able to put more officers on a shift than she previously could, even with the vacancies.
In response to another question by Huffman, the chief said some of the shifts in her department have four officers, and others have five.
Christie said the 12-hour shift was originally staffed with five to seven officers. But he noted that Stanback has experienced some “bad luck” with sickness, injury, employees out on special medical leaves and training.
When Dagen acknowledged that this situation can arise more often than the aldermen would imagine, Stanback said it is never possible to predict what will happen.
The board also approved a motion offered by Huffman and seconded by Dakin that any funds remaining after the two police positions are restored should be placed in Capital Improvements for matching grant money and other capital projects.
City Finance Director John Trusty noted that, in the current year budget, all the city’s employees are earning at least $20,000 a year. He expressed concern that the salary adjustment might put some of them below that level.
So, the board passed a motion offered by McGhee and seconded by Dakin to make sure that does not happen.
Trusty noted that passage of the amended Position Control Budget and Compensation Policy will change the “salary ranges,” as well as restoring the two police positions.
Because the city’s employees already have a “big enough pill” to swallow, Hawkins asked whether that budget contains any salary reductions other than elimination of the 3- and 5-percent pay increases.
Christie acknowledged that there will be “a lot” of reductions, including the “reversals” that the board previously approved because they were not in accordance with board policy.
Although a small number of employees will get salary increases, he said they will now be less than what they were. Those affected are eight employees in the Public Works Department, three in General Government and one in Economic Development.
“But you have about 30 employees who will actually have reversals,” he noted. “This will be in addition to the 3 percent that’s been taken back. That’s already been factored into the budget. The net effect of that was around $45,000.”

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