City board reluctantly suspends longevity pay increase

Published 11:54 am Friday, September 15, 2017

By Rupert Howell

Batesville is budgeting $1.2 million less or  6.5 percent in revenue for the coming fiscal year in the amount of $17,380,924 and will seek an eight percent increase in Ad Valorem taxes or property taxes to make it work following Tuesday morning’s approval of the budget.

The board of mayor and aldermen reluctantly but unanimously voted to suspend for one year the annual longevity increase for employees with three years or more service to help offset cuts caused by decreased revenue in the sales of gas and slow growing sales tax revenue.

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The largest cuts came in the form of capital outlay in the Street Department cutting from $2,012,218 in the current year to $435,000 for the coming year. Those funds are recently used to pave and upgrade city streets.

Batesville Fire Department also received a significant budget cut in the area of capital outlay from $878,142 budgeted in the current year to $415,000 for the coming year.

This year’s higher figure was penciled in last year when a new station was in talking stages however current economics have pushed that issue back.

Fire Chief Tim Taylor earlier stated that his department usually spends a fraction of the capital outlay budget. That department did receive an increase in the services and charges portion of their budget from $201,437 to $372,600 and personnel from $1,599,521 to $1,649,230.

Taylor said he was more concerned about the longevity pay increases stating, “I’m struggling to get career fire fighters and longevity is one of my selling points . . . when competing with departments that pay more starting off upon hire.”

Alderman agreed that employees would be able to keep their time and the longevity suspension would be for just one year.

Alderman Stan Harrison said that in his eight years on the board employees have some sort of raise each year noting many employers were not able to do that.

Police Chief Jimmy McCloud and Assistant Chief Kerry Pittman moved toward the board table when the longevity pay discussion arose and asked that if the board decided to suspend it, please give department heads time to inform employees as both he and Chief Taylor spent two days “putting out fires” when the idea was previously  mentioned through a news story in this newspaper. City Clerk Susan Berryhill agreed to notify department heads.

The approved budget’s summary page listed net receipts at $19,339,970 for the coming year compared to $23,277,730 for the current year, a 20 percent decrease.

Net disbursements for the coming year are listed at $23,212,607, a 31 percent decrease from the current year’s estimated totals.