The Columbia City Council amended the city’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget Tuesday night to increase pay for city workers.
The amendments the council approved included:
- Increasing minimum pay for all permanent positions to $15 an hour.
- Moving eligible employees with five or more years of service in their current position to the midpoint.
- Giving trash collectors a $2 an hour increase.
- Giving all city employees a 20-cent raise.
These wage increases would use about $990,000 from the general fund and $950,000 from other funds.
The city council had $1.54 million in the general fund to use for pay increases.
“I think there are a lot of city employees that, when they chose this job over a different job, looked at that pay range and thought, ‘Man, in five and half years I could be making this,’” Mayor Brian Treece said. “Whether it was a promise or not we denied them that.”
“At this point I think we’re paying for it in terms of retention at the police, fire and refuse collector levels,” he said.
Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer suggested using $400,000 in the general fund to staff the downtown police unit, rather than use the funds toward additional pay increases.
This suggestion was not accepted by the rest of the council. Instead, the council approved the amendment to give all city employees the 20-cent raise. The raise would be in addition to the 25-cent citywide increase that City Manager Mike Matthes originally proposed in the budget. This was intended to maintain the $1,000 bonus employees received in the 2018 fiscal year.
Pitzer voted against the amendment.
The council will also consider increasing electric lineman salaries by 15 percent by using other funds or increasing utility rates. They asked city staff to look at funding options before the next meeting.
In other council matters, many Columbia residents appeared before the council to voice opposition to the proposed public transit cuts.
Cheryl Price, vice chair of the Public Transit Advisory Committee, spoke to the council first and noted her para-transit driver was waiting for her outside because “they don’t run this late to pick people up.”
Price said she believes that the proposed para-transit changes would result in fewer people using the service. She also said the $1 fee increase would not generate the revenue the city would expect.
Price also said she’s had close to 15 calls and even more emails from people who use para-transit telling her the $1 fee increase would mean choosing between going to the doctor or going grocery shopping. Visiting a friend or seeking entertainment won’t even be an option for them, she said.
“I know this is reality for people,” Price said. “I implore you to please not increase the para-transit fee.”
The council will finish discussions on the 2019 budget amendments and vote on entire budget at its next meeting Sept. 17.
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