Council OKs budget, payroll schedule changes
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Sept. 6, 2006 -- After doing a little fine tuning, Sulphur Springs City Council members approved the first reading of the city's new budget, the tax rate for the coming fiscal year, and slight increases in water, sewer and sanitation rates.

The tax rate approved by the council is the same rate the city has used for several years. But this year, the 44 cents per $100 property valuation will generate more money for the city due to an 8 percent rise in overall property values along with increases in sales tax revenues.

In tweaking budget figures, Council member Larry Powers asked that a planned expenditure of $18,500 for engineering studies to determine possible uses of water discharged from the wastewater treatment plant be dropped from the list of planned expenditures.

Before adding his second to Powers' motion to approve the ordinance adopting the financial plan, Chris Brown asked that $20,000 to $25,000 be added into the plan to increase manpower in the fire department.

The current staffing plan for the fire department calls for five firefighters to be on duty during each of the three shifts; however, Fire Chief Garry Cleaver said that six men are on duty a majority of the time, and off-duty firefighters are called back to work for every structure fire.

Brown said he felt the anticipated growth of the city mandates expanding manpower in the fire department.

When the question was called by Mayor Freddie Taylor, the council voted unanimously to incorporate the changes, resulting in a $6,500 increase for the proposed budget, and approved the appropriations ordinance on first reading.

Quick approval was also given to 4 percent increases for water, sewer and sanitation rates. The increases were in line with the Consumer Price Index.

Action was also taken on a recommendation from City Manager Marc Maxwell to make a change to the city's payroll schedule. For years, the city has been issuing payroll checks two times a month, but with increases in the number of city employees over the years, that schedule has become problematic.

"If payday is on Friday, typically department heads have to have all their time sheets turned in by Monday, and it takes a while to work it through the system and get payroll cut," Maxwell explained. "The problem is we are paying up to the day you actually get paid so the department heads are estimating what they think their employees will work that week."

In using this method, the city manager said, there are frequent occasions in which an employee gets sick, takes a day of vacation or works overtime.

"So, the next time they do payroll, not only are they estimating what the employees will work for the remainder of the week, they are reconciling what they actually worked in the prior pay period," he said. "So this is a waste of man-hours, I don't  know what it would actually add up to, but we just know it is a pain in the neck and would like to do something."

The city manager offered three possible alternatives for the council to consider.

"The first option really would not affect the current year expenditures until an employee actually leaves, and we estimate that would cost $7,000 to $10,000 a year,” he said.

The second option would have city employees absorbing the difference. At the end of their term of employment with the city, employees would get the extra week they did not get when the transition was made.

The third option would have the city "front" employees the extra week and then deduct that amount from paychecks over the next year.

Maxwell said the last two options would not be in the best interest of the employees because, for many of them, having $50 deducted from their paychecks to offset the week involved in the cycle change could mean the difference between paying a bill or not paying it.

A motion was made by Larry Powers and seconded by Yolanda Willams to approve changing the payroll cycle from two times a month to every two weeks, utilizing the option that would have the city absorb the cost of paying employees for the extra week when they left the city. The measure was approved with member Clay Walker casting the lone dissenting vote.

The council also gave approval to a resolution establishing a reinvestment zone for Jeld-Wen Inc., along with a companion resolution on tax abatement for the manufacturer.

Approval was given to Police Chief Jim Bayuk to utilize funds in his department's forfeiture fund, which amounts to just over $139,000.

Bayuk had proposed using a portion of that amount to purchase a new patrol car; to pay a clothing allowance for department employees that do not wear uniforms; new badges; and other equipment for his officers.

Approval was also given to the final replat of Kelty Farms Addition on South Broadway Street near the intersection of the planned State Highway 11 extension to allow for future development.

An ordinance to rezone property at the corner of Spence and Fisher streets from single-family zoning to two-family zoning received unanimous approval.

Prior to the start of Tuesday evening's regular meeting, the council met in executive session to discuss possible real estate transactions, but no action came from that meeting.

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