Visit El Dorado
Live Here
Do Business Here
Chamber of Commerce
« View All News

City approves pay raises

Posted on December 15, 2015

This article was published December 14, 2015 at 7:49 p.m.

Published by El Dorado News Times

By Tia Lyons

The El Dorado City Council granted Monday the budget wish lists for several city departments by voting in favor of pay raises for civilian and uniformed city employees.

The unanimous vote included a 3 percent pay raise for non-uniformed personnel, a change in pay structure for uniformed officers and firefighters and authorization to seek requests for proposals to start a voluntary retirement plan, to which the city will match up to 5 percent, for public works employees.

The decision was met with a wild round of applause and thank-yous from an audience that was made up of employees from all three departments.

Just over a month ago, Police Chief Billy White and Fire Chief Chad said El Dorado ranked low in pay among other cities and agencies in the state and region that were comparable in size, services provided, etc.

They also expressed concern about not being able to recruit and retain quality employees, many of whom move on to higher-paying jobs in the private sector or with other law enforcement or fire service agencies.

For example, White said then that starting pay for officers is $13.33 an hour. With the new salary structure, that amount will go up to $14.73.

Mosby said starting pay within the fire department will rise from $29,000 a year to $33,000. The change will have a ripple effect up through the pay scales of each department.

After some discussion on Monday, Alderman Vance Williamson made the motion to approve the pay raises and new retirement plan.

Williamson said the city receives an average of $782,000 in state turnback funds each year that go into reserve, enough to cover the requests out of the city’s general fund.

“We can meet their wish list, and we have a healthy reserve fund. I make a motion that we go ahead and follow through with this,” Williamson said.

Alderman Billy Blann had earlier inquired about the balance of the city’s reserve coffers, and city treasurer Bonnie Wyles said there was more than $10 million in reserves.

Wyles noted that $6.4 million is required to be maintained in the fund to cover three months of operating expenses.

The changes in salary structure and 3 percent pay raise for civilian employees within the police department came to $381,648 and $251,000 in the fire department.

City officials talked about a pledge they made previously to consider a 3 percent pay raise for city employees each year for four years.

Mayor Frank Hash said Monday that the pledge is heading into its third year.

“This is like a business. We can’t make any promises from here on out,” Williamson said.

“The only downside to this is if you can’t make payroll, you’re going to have to let people go,” Hash said.

Alderman Willie McGhee urged the council to “take a chance on loyal employees.”

“We take chances all the time. We need to take this opportunity to keep our best people,” McGhee said. “Most of the people who work for us live in the community, and they shop in this community, so that dollar will turn over.”

See PAY on page 2A

Alderman Dianne Hammond asked Williamson to amend his motion to reflect that the council will not make any additional promises and will study the issue of pay raises from year to year.

As Edmonds presented his proposal for a voluntary retirement plan for public works employees, McGhee said he had received a call a local financial advisor who said a retirement plan was already in place for non-uniformed city employees.

Edmonds and Wyles said they had also spoken with the advisor, and they explained that while voluntary plan is available to civilian employees, the city does not offer a plan with a city contribution for civilian employees.

Uniformed personnel within the police and fire departments are covered by LOPFI, the state retirement system for officers and firefighters.

With 100 percent participation, Edmonds said the plan would cost the city $130,000 a year.

Employees would have the option of contributing 5 percent of pre-tax money from their paychecks, and the city would match up to that amount.

Aldermen asked Edmonds if he had any idea how many employees would participate in the new plan.

“I really don’t have a good feeling about what it might be — probably 50 percent,” Edmonds said, adding

He said the city would seek out requests for proposals from financial institutions for a plan that is similar to a 401K and that would be best suited for the city.

The department heads also inquired about when the council planned to handle capital improvement requests for 2016, and aldermen said they would discuss the matter at a later date.

The council gave Edmonds the go-ahead to pursue costs of extending Beverly Drive to El Dorado High School to open up an egress to Hillsboro.

Hash said the project had been estimated at $500,000.