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— City employees will get a 5 percent cost of living and merit raise in 2010 in addition to Christmas bonuses in 2009.

At Monday night’s meeting, city council members voted 4-1 to give city employees a 5 percent raise in 2010. Alderman Linda Martin voted against the pay increase and alderman David Sutton was not present.

The increase was included in the 2010 budget, pending council approval. Even though, nationally, the cost of living has gone up less than a percentage point, Mayor Bill Montgomery recommended the raise.

“Things are better in Decatur ... I would much rather lose a swimming pool than a good employee,” Montgomery said.

“They have gone over and above,” he said, listing employees in the city’s various departments. “This could be the only time in the next five years we could give this raise.”

“I don’t have a problem with the raise as long as we don’t add any new employees,” alderman Raegena Davis said.

After much discussion, councilman James Jessen made a motion to approve the raises. The motion received a second from Davis.

City attorney Tom Smith pointed out that the starting pay rate for each job needed to be increased to reflect the raise in case any employees were replaced in the future.

In a separate measure, the council voted to give fulltime employees a $300 Christmas bonus in 2009 and a $150 bonus to part-time employees.

“I’m just very proud of all the employees, the way things have gone and the way things are handled,” Mayor Bill Montgomery said.

The council also voted to give Montgomery and city recorder Leslie Haag - both elected officials - a $300 Christmas bonus.

It was decided that newly-hired employees who hadn’t completed their 90 day probationary period would not be granted a 5 percent pay increase, but would be eligible for Christmas bonuses.

City administrative assistant Kim Wilkins brought up the issue of whether or not the 5 percent pay increase would effect Montgomery and Haag. Wilkins said she called the county and was told cost-of-living raises do apply to elected officials.

According to city ordinance, Montgomery’s base salary is $10,920, but he is currently being paid $11,247 due to previous cost-of-living raises. The mayor’s salary has not been reviewed for a number of years, Montgomery said.

Smith said elected officials do not get cost-of-living raises, but instead the ordinance needs to reflect what they are getting paid. The mayoral salary must be set before March, when candidates can file for the next election, he said.

The council decided to re-examine the mayor’s and city recorder’s salary at the January meeting.

The 2010 budget also includes reinstating the aldermen’s previous salary. In July of 2008 the council was forced to make budget cuts and lay-off two employees. At the same meeting they voted to cut their own pay by 50 percent to $50. Their pay will now return to $100 per month.

Benton County West Court 2010 Budget

City council members voted to table a proposed 2010 budget from the Benton County West District Court until court officials can answer some questions.

Martin and Wilkins wanted to know why the cities of Gravette and Sulphur Springs were not included on the budget when they use the court’s services.

Council members also voted to pass a motion that the Christmas bonuses don’t apply to court employees. Martin said the court asks for the best benefits from Gentry, Decatur and Benton County. For example, if the county has a good vacation policy, they ask for the county’s vacation policy, but if Gentry has a good bonus, they ask for Gentry’s bonus, she said.

News, Pages 1 on 12/16/2009

Print Headline: Pay raises, bonuses approved for city employees

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