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City employees get raise

by Mary Keck

January 23, 2013

City employees will have a little bit more money in their paycheck in 2013.

On Jan. 14, Clarkston City Council unanimously approved a wage increase for every employee, except City Manager Dennis Ritter who proposed the raise for his fellow workers.

Ritter intends to retire from his part-time position in April.

All seven of the city's personnel who received a raise are employed on a part-time basis without benefits, and they have not seen their wages increase for about six years.

"The responsibilities of each position have increased over the last six years," Ritter told the council. "The city is in a strong and sturdy financial position and is able to absorb the proposed increase of personnel costs."

To give every part-time employee a raise, the city spent $26,044, and the cost for the higher wages will be paid from the city's fund balance.

The fund balance from their audit shows the city has $321,719 in budget surpluses accumulated over the years.

In April, a $60,000 deficit was projected for the 2013 budget, and as a result, Mayor Joe Luginski said he would waive the $3,850 he is paid annually, and the council members agreed to donate the $25 they earn for each meeting they attend back to the city, too.

Salaries for members of the Planning Commission were also cut.

The most recent 2012/2013 budget the council adopted on Nov. 26 showed an $8,378 deficit, which was covered by the $321,719 in the fund balance.

While most in attendance at the meeting on Jan. 14 felt the employees deserved a raise, using money from the fund balance was a point of contention.

"It is not the increase that I have a problem with, but rather the inattention to its impact on the budget this year and in future years," former councilman Richard Bisio said.

He cautioned the council, "you need to look in the long range as to how you can sustain that level of expenses in future years because if you keep dipping into the fund balance year after year, it's going to be gone."

"I support the idea of increasing compensation for our employees," said councilman Stephen Hargis. "I think they're a long time coming, but I also agree with Richard about dipping into the fund balance."

Councilman Mike Sabol had a similar view.

"This is something that potentially is favorable to the city and the right thing to do to make sure that we keep and are able to get good people to come along, but I don't want to do it without making sure that we think through it and make sure we can cover it through the balance in the future," Sabol said.

Ritter felt the need for a raise outweighed concerns about the fund balance.

"I think the employees' wage has been held back at the expense of maintaining the fund balance, and I agree that we should not necessarily use the fund balance for operating purposes, but it's been a long time since we've had any consideration given to the employees here," he asserted.

Council member Carol Eberhardt concurred.

"The fund balance isn't spent willy nilly. That's clearly shown by the percentage of fund balance we have," she said.

According to the city's audit, the fund balance is 52 percent of the city's total general fund expenditures for the year.

"We do not sacrifice people for the sake of a big bank account," Eberhardt added.

Luginski agreed with her.

"I don't care what organization you've been in, the most important asset you have is your people," he stated. "The most expensive thing you can do is train and hire new people."

Luginski supported using the fund balance to cover the cost of the wage increase.

"I think if we want to continue to have the work and the effort and the loyalty from our folks, we as an employer, need to reward those people too."

View the city's budget on the web at The City Council's next meeting will take place on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall on Depot Street.