City employees could see 6 percent pay boost

A tax rate identical to last year's and an increase in sanitation rates headlined Monday night's special meeting of the Big Spring City Council, as the municipality began its week-long trek to lay out its fiscal plan for 2013-2014.The proposed tax rate — at 86.5043 cents per $100 valuation, the same as the tax rate adopted for the 2012-2013 budget and approximately 2.32 cents below the effective rate — is expected to generate approximately $5.27 million in revenue for the city, according to City Finance Director Peggy Walker. The rate will generate approximately $550,600 more than last year, thanks to increases in values delivered by the Howard County Appraisal District.However, the $550,600 windfall in revenues won't last long, as the council recently directed the city administration to make employee retention one of its central aims for the 2013-2014 budget, according to City Manager Todd Darden.“The employee compensation plan we've developed will provide for a 6 percent increase in pay for city employees across the board,” Darden said. “Our hope is this plan will help reduce the turnover rate, help eliminate understaffing and overtime costs and bring the city's pay plan closer to the market.“We've retained an independent contractor to evaluate pay plan, job duties and responsibilities so we could bring these recommendations back to the council. It's possible adjustments to the pay plan will be made at mid-year. Each 1 percent of an across-the-board pay increase will cost the city approximately $131,000, so a 6 percent increase will cost $785,000, which is still more than $200,000 more than the increase we'll see in revenue.”Among the projects expected to be funded during the coming fiscal year are:• Construction of the east cell at the existing landfill and work on a new landfill site are expected to cost approximately $3.4 million.• Expansion of the road seal coat program from the budgeted $250,000 to $500,000, with approximately eight to 10 miles of roadway expected to be coated. This is an increase from the four miles originally planned for.• Water and sewer line replacement is estimated at $1.45 million, which includes a recent grant won by the city in the amount of $350,000.• Expanded replacement of sanitation containers, including $130,000 in expenditures.• Demolition and removal of the north side water tower.• Upgrades for the Municipal Auditorium, including improvements to sound, lighting and curtains.• Replacement of municipal equipment, including eight police cars, two sanitation trucks and mowing equipment.• Upgrades to the playground equipment for the north side community park.• Grants for the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark and Big Spring Airport, including funding for a fuel farm, apron overlay and new T-hangars.