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Burgin Approves Cost Of Living Raises For City Employees

Council Declines Offering Larger Raises To City Office Staff

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

At a special-called meeting on July 20, the Burgin City Council voted to give city employees a three-percent cost of living adjustment, but held off on giving raises to the city clerk and water clerk.

The council  agreed to offer a cost of living adjustment—also known as a COLA—across the board to all city employees. They decided to not give Treasurer Angela Stewart and Water Clerk Britney Smith a more substantial raise.

Burgin Mayor Jim Caldwell wanted to give Stewart a $2 an hour raise and to give Smith a $1 an hour raise.

“I’m asking for a merit raise,” Caldwell said.

When the issue first came before the council at their regular meeting on July 13, Councilman Jamie Keebortz objected.

“Personally, I think they do deserve it,” Keebortz said. He said the raises had not been discussed at the budget meetings. “I don’t like getting blind-sided at meetings like this.”

At the special-called meeting, Keebortz and other  council members objected again, with some saying Caldwell had not done performance reviews for city employees. The mayor said he could have the employee reviews ready by the next regular meeting.

Caldwell said Smith and Stewart—who had to virtually rebuild the city office from scratch after the former office staff resigned—deserved the raise. In addition, he said the two clerks had brought in grants and other money.

The mayor noted employers across the nation were having to increase wages in order to attract and retain staff. He said he knew some residents would complain.

“I don’t mind taking the flack,” Caldwell said. “I do not see where it serves the city to lose good employees.”

Councilman Sindicat “Sid” Dunn said there needed to be more transparency in how personnel decisions were made.

“We should have a standard,” Dunn said. He said there needed to be regular performance reviews and everything needed to be documented.

Keebortz said he was still trying to figure out how $13,000 got added to the budget for increased salaries.

“Three percent doesn’t equal $13,000,” said Keebortz, who called it “budgetary bulls**t.” He said the $13,000 was inserted into the budget with the raise in mind.

Stewart said it was a mistake. She said she had been asked by the council  to put in a three-percent COLA into the budget and had entered the wrong amount.

“I’m not perfect,” Stewart said.

Councilwoman Francis Hayslett Cord said nothing  had been said beyond the COLA increase.

Cord said Burgin used to offer employees a five percent raise every year until 2009, when there was a wage freeze. She said the mayor should conduct performance reviews in February before they draft the budget, not ask for a raise after the budget had already been decided.

Smith took the council through her day-to-day routine. She said the staff is threatened by people upset about their bills. They’ve had to call in the police.

Mayor Caldwell noted that Smith had been required to teach herself how to run the billing system because there were no city employees left to teach her.

“We’ve taken the time to learn our jobs the way they should have been learned,” Smith said.

When Caldwell took office in 2018, the City of Burgin had not completed an audit since 2011, leading the state to withhold street paving funds. Since then the city has gotten up to date on their financial reporting and have begun paving streets again.

“We’ve done more in the last two and half years than they’ve done in the 10 years before,” Caldwell said.

At the same time, many residents are unhappy. Burgin still has problems with flooding and the citizens pay some of the highest utility rates in the area.

“They perceive there’s a lot more to be done,” Keebortz said. “Any raise inside this building is going to be seen negatively.”

Still, when Dunn moved to give the three percent COLA for all employees, Keebortz seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

The council also approved a four percent increase on tangible and intangible property. They left the property tax rates unchanged.

Tangible assets are physical assets or property owned by a company, such as equipment, buildings and inventory. Intangible assets are non-physical assets that have a monetary value such as patents, copyrights, and a company’s brand.

The next meeting of the Burgin City Council will be on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 6:30 p.m.

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