Council OKs raise for city workers
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
May 23, 2014, 13:22
HOPEWELL — City Council has proposed to fund a 2-percent cost-of-living pay increase for all city and school employees. This decision has come a week after council had discussed funding all or a portion of the health insurance increase.
On Tuesday night, council held the last public hearing for the over $40 million budget. There were no speakers apart from Superintendent Dr. John Fahey, who again expressed his thanks for council’s support, and immediately following the public hearing, Councilor Wayne Walton made the motion to fund the 2-percent increase.
The motion was passed unanimously by the councilors with Councilor Brenda Pelham abstaining from the vote and Councilor Christina Luman-Bailey not present.
The cost-of-living increase will be funded through the unassigned fund balance. City Manager Mark Haley said it will cost $279,000 for city employees and $544,000 for school employees, totaling $823,000.
The cost-of-living increase will cost much less than the earlier proposal from council of paying the entire health insurance increase, which would have cost $1.2 million. Haley said the 2-percent increase will be “in lieu of” funding the health insurance increase.
At the council meeting last week, in addition to debating the funding of the health insurance increase, there was also a conversation about funding a new communications system for police, fire and EMS at $2.2 million.
Funds for the new communications system were also proposed to come from the cash reserves in the budget. At this time, the communications system is no longer in the proposed budget. However, Haley said the day following the meeting he is not tabling the communications system project anytime soon.
“We’ve got to do it,” Haley said. “We cannot wait until the next budget.”
Once the budget is finalized, Haley is going to begin researching other alternatives to fund the communications system. He said options will be brought to council in January of 2015 if not sooner, emphasizing that the communications system is 17 years old.
Another large unfunded project in the city is the East Broadway Bridge. The bridge was closed a month ago following a failed inspection, which found the bridge could collapse under its own weight. Haley said at this time there is no proposed funding for the project.
“We have to stabilize it to tear it down,” Haley said of the bridge. He said the city is considering the option of putting up a pedestrian bridge in its place once it is torn down. No timeline was indicated for the project.
Council will begin the approval stages for the budget at the meeting on May 27. In addition to the budget, council will also be holding a public hearing for nominations and applicants for the Hopewell School Board.