The Harrodsburg Board of Commissioners scrapped a proposal to give workers with the public works department a raise last night.
At the commission’s regular meeting on Monday, April 26, the board voted down giving a raise, three to one, with only Commissioner Ruth Ann Bryant, who oversees the public works department, voting for it.
Bryant proposed to give workers in the street department a $1 per hour raise. Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham objected, saying they needed to wait until they got the city’s budget finished to see about giving every city employee a raise. The commission has previously offered pay increases to both city police officers and dispatchers, and Isham said other city employees now also wanted raises.
“What this is going to start is a war,” he said.
Albert Moore, director of the public works department, said there is money in his department’s budget through the end of the fiscal year for the raise. The fiscal year ends on June 30. Moore provided a breakdown for where the money could come from, but Isham wondered how the city could afford the raise moving forward.
“What are we going to do about next year?” the commissioner said.
Moore said they could pay for the raise by not filling an open position. While he insisted his department had the money in the budget for next year, Isham noted that last year, the city had to draw funds from savings in order to balance the budget. He said he would love to give a raise to the workers from his department, but they need to find where the money would come from.
Moore said he is looking at losing two more employees without the raise.
“We’re damned if we do we’re damned if we don’t,” Isham said. “I want to give them raises-without raising taxes.”
The commission discussed holding off the raises until July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year-and providing a pay increase for all city workers, not just those in the public works department.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Bryant, noting the raises that had previously been extended to police officers and dispatchers.
“Everybody who works for the city deserves a raise once a year,” said Mayor Art Freeman.
“We started this,” Freeman said, by giving the raises to the police and communications departments. The mayor said they were losing cops to other departments.
“I don’t want to be here if we lose all of our city employees,” Freeman said. “I’m just trying to keep the peace.”
Commissioner Adam Johnson said they had looked at also increasing salaries for members of the fire department, but Johnson said they were holding off until next year. He said he would like to see any possible raises for the next budget cycle. The commission will not begin working on the budget until next month.
Freeman said they had given workers a raise last year, with the employees earning the least getting the biggest increase.
“Governments don’t do things that make sense,” said Freeman. “They don’t reward good employees, they reward all employees.”
Bryant asked if they would consider raises for the police officers and dispatchers who have already received raises this year. According to Harrodsburg City Clerk Shavonna Huffman, those employees will not receive a cost of living raise in 2021 and would receive title but no pay increase if they are promoted.
A motion to consider raises for all city employees when the city crafts a new budget passed three to one, with Bryant voting against it.
“I know you’re trying to keep the peace, but I don’t think it’s fair,” she said.
The commission also gave first reading to ordinance 2021-06, dealing with abandoned properties. If approved, the ordinance would give the city authority to move on abandoned properties. Once a property is considered abandoned or vacant for 45 consecutive days or more, the city would receive the title, allowing workers to clean, raise or demolish the property, which would then be sold by public auction. The commission will hear public comments at their next meeting, on Monday, May 10, at 6 p.m.