Raises, bonuses on the table for WM city workers

Raises, bonuses on the table for WM city workers

City Council crunching numbers to see if pay hike feasible with tax revenues stagnant


The annual rush to consider year end bonuses and raises for the more than 350 West Memphis city workers was on in council chambers last month. Every city council member on the budget commission huddled up during the board’s Nov. 28 meeting to consider the possibilities, each one offering different ideas about how to put more money in the pockets of the city’s workforce and how much it could or should be.

Budget Committee Chairman, City Councilman Tracy Catt heard each opinion about wage and salary increases and/or year end bonuses and replied to each with show me the money.

The challenge to offering any more money for a raise next year rests on the fact that the city tax collections this year have not brought in more money than last year. Tax collections remain flat. Increased expenses for the city contribution to employee health insurance already looked to stretch next year’s proposed $65 million budget.

“The general fund just picked up $270,000 in new expenses for health insurance expense,” said Catt. “You’ll have to spend another $400,000 plus increase to fund the three percent raises and again for bonuses. That’s another $1,000,000 plus increase from the 2017 budget to the 2018 budget. How we going to fund it? It’s just that simple. I am not against considering any of this, just show me where the money is going to come from.”

There were as many opinions on how to spread money around as there were council members at the table.

Ward Representatives went around the table speaking for different plans.

“I would like to see them get something for the holidays,” said Ward 5 Councilwoman Helen Harris. “A lot of them don’t make that much any way.”

Ward 4 Councilman Marco McClendon pushed for a bigger raise instead of any year end bonus.

“If we can give a 3-percent raise, I’d rather give bigger raise than a bonus,” said Marco. “Because what happens — they get their bonus, go Christmas shopping and then tomorrow it is gone. They get their next paycheck and say, ‘look, nothing changed.’” An additional 1-percent raise would cost the city another $165,000.

After hearing the varying opinions from the two councilors the city treasurer offered an observation.

“That’s always the push,” said Martin. “Half the city wants bonuses, half want raises.”

Ward 3 Alderman Wayne Croom wanted year-end bonuses based on a new formula, with raises deferred for consideration in the first quarter of next year.

“I have a plan for a twopart program,” said Croom. “Incentive bonuses this year and 3-percent across-theboard increase on February first next year.”

Croom’s bonus structure represented an overall slight decrease for the amount of bonus traditionally offered.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Melanie Hutchinson wanted to give raises and consider bonuses pending updated tax collection reports and the budget proposal fro 2018.

“How soon can we look at the numbers,” said Hutchinson. “We will be able to look at the data to determine what we can and can’t do?”

Ultimately, the council unanimously recommended the mayor’s raise proposal be considered at the first full city council meeting in December, set for this afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

The mayor suggested an across-the-board 3-percent raise for most city workers beginning in January. The raises would exclude emergency dispatchers and linemen which received competitive wage adjustments during 2017. No provision was proposed by Johnson for any bonuses.

“It would cost about $500,000 for all the raises,” said Martin.

“When will we consider bonuses,” wondered Harris. “If you want one, you better have it ready for the next city council agenda,” said Croom. “Don’t wait.”

By John Rech