Council approves budget with $5,000 raises
The Fairfield City Council approved the 2013-2014 budget Monday after a brief discussion about the appropriate salaries for department heads.
The council approved the budget on a 6-1 vote. Councilor Connie Boyer cast the only no vote. The yes votes were cast by John Revolinski, Daryn Hamilton, Martha Rasmussen, Jessica Ledger-Kalen, Tony Hammes and Michael Halley.
Boyer had received calls from residents wondering why five department heads would receive raises of $5,000 each, which were included in the proposed budget. Those five departments are the fire, police, park and recreation, streets and city clerk.
“The raises are significant,” Boyer said. “As much as we all want to give raises, since it’s a nice thing to do, we also know there are police officers leaving for other areas where they’re paid more.”
Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey said in an interview the department spends all of its training budget on new officers because it has such a high turnover. She said the turnover was related to other governmental bodies, such as the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, being able to offer higher salaries.
Boyer made a motion to, instead of dividing $25,000 among five department heads, divide it among the five department heads plus all the officers and dispatchers. That would mean each of the five department heads would receive a $1,000 increase, and each officer and dispatcher would receive a $1,000 increase since there are 14 officers and six dispatchers.
Boyer’s motion to amend the budget died for lack of a second.
Mayor Ed Malloy asked Harvey if she thought Boyer’s suggestion was the most equitable solution.
Harvey said she would divide the raises differently, specifically by rank. Police officers will begin receiving overtime pay instead of compensation time beginning July 1.
“What you’re lacking are the dispatch and administration staff,” she said.
When police officers worked more than their scheduled hours in a week, they had received compensation time. The problem they faced was that they accumulated so much compensation time they couldn’t use it all, so it went down the drain. As of July 1, the officers will be compensated monetarily for the extra hours they put in.
City Administrator Kevin Flanagan said the proposed budget is the beginning of a long-term process to bring city salaries up to comparable towns.
“I began that process with the leadership of the organization to the best of my ability in one year,” he said.
Flanagan said his plan is to give raises to the department heads who were not included in this year’s budget.
Revolinski said he was apprehensive about approving the budget since it included a tax increase, albeit a modest one of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The city’s levy is now $15.83 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and will rise to $15.98 with the passage of the 2013-2014 budget.
He said the proposed budget included more “breathing room” for the departments.
“We’ve gone to an overtime system for our police, instead of comp time, which has not worked out at all,” he said. “We set aside money for a computer professional at the library. This budget adequately addresses many of the needs of the department.”
Malloy said in an interview Tuesday the city is well aware that its employees are not paid what comparable cities pay their employees.
“We haven’t treated the police any differently than other city employees over the last 10 years,” he said. “As we’ve been able to give cost of living raises, we’ve done it across the board.”
Malloy said the Fairfield Police Department is in a unique situation because it shares a facility with another law enforcement agency, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“The county has chosen to budget higher salaries for deputies, which creates a competitive situation within local law enforcement,” he said. “We are concerned about how many officers have become deputies because of the salary differences.”