Columbus Council voted to divide four parts of the city government’s mid-year budget proposal into separate requests Tuesday, with an apparent eye toward holding off on a proposed .5 percent pay increase for city workers until the fiscal year 2013 budget process begins.
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The Consolidated Government requested increases of $2.5 million for a new Public Safety records management system, $570,000 for demolitions, $215,000 for a .5 percent pay increase for city workers and almost $6.8 million for a vehicle replacement plan.
The request was on first reading Tuesday, so no action was taken other than to break the elements apart so they can be considered separately in two weeks.
Councilors Mike Baker and Skip Henderson proposed splitting the pay increase apart from the others and suggested that because the raise would not kick in until near the end of the fiscal year, it would be better to address it when the council addresses next year’s budget.
Henderson said because of the weak economy of the last few years, city employees have not received as many raises as they would have otherwise. That has dropped their salaries below the market levels.
“I hope that this in next budget we will focus on the people piece of this government and try to close that gap that has widened again with regards to where they are in the marketplace,” Henderson said. “Having said that, I’m a little leery of doing pay adjustments at mid-year, particularly since it would kick in closer to May and you would only have two or three months of a half-percent raise.
“I’d prefer to see those things run through the budget process.”
The separate budget increase requests will come back before Council on second reading on Feb. 28 for a vote.
In other business:
Council unanimously approved hiring Muscogee County Prison interim warden Dwight Hamrick to hold the permanent position.
Hamrick took over the prison on an interim basis in September when former Warden Bill Adamson retired, under duress, he said at the time. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson nominated Hamrick formally Tuesday morning and council unanimously approved.
A state investigation of the prison was recently declassified, revealing allegations of misconduct among prison staff at all levels under the former warden. Tomlinson said Hamrick has restored stability to the prison since taking over.
Hamrick brings 34 years of corrections experience at the state and county level.
Council approved four grant requests from Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown, totaling about $376,000.
The grants were $87,970 for the Juvenile Drug Court, $160,000 for the DARE to be Great program, $70,000 for Marshall Movers, and $58,100 for Teen Advisors Inc.