- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By CHARLES RICHARDS
No one on the Paris City Council was caught by surprise when city manager John Godwin unveiled his proposed 2012-2013 budget on Wednesday that included more than $40,000 for raises “for certain selected employees based on actual performance.”
In June, within three weeks of taking over as city manager, Godwin convened a workshop session of the council so he and the council could understand where each other was coming from.
He told the council he would be asking for “a pot of money” for merit raises for city employees.
“I’ll tell you ahead, so you’ll be prepared, it won’t be for all 325 employees,” he said.
“It will be for the best of the employees. It won’t be across the board. Probably 20 percent of the employees will get a merit raise,” he said.
Godwin said he included $27,296 out of the general fund and $13,165 out of the water and sewer fund to pay for merit raises “for certain exceptional employees.”
He told eParisExtra that when he decides who will get the raises, he won’t announce it, “because I don’t want to embarrass the ones who don’t get it.
“I like the idea of pay for performance. That doesn’t mean I’m always opposed to across-the board raises. Sometimes those are necessary; sometimes those are appropriate. But I’m not proposing anything like that this year,” he said.
Personnel costs are the city’s biggest expense – 64.6 percent. The proposed merit raises would increase that by one-eighth of 1 percent.
Nothing is included in the budget for retired employees, who were receiving an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) until 2008.
“That’s something I think you need to talk about as a group — maybe not tonight,” Godwin said.
About 20 retirees came to the Aug. 13 meeting of the council asking for a restoration of the COLA benefits. Costs keep going up, but they are on a fixed income and their check hasn’t gone up in four years.
“We have a lot more retirees than I originally thought. I thought we had about 40 or 50, and it turns out we have 165,” Godwin said.
“There’s different ways to address that. There’s the ‘big fix,’ which costs huge amounts of money — seven figures kind of money,” he said.
The city manager noted that the council might consider giving retirees a one-time stipend “which I think has been done once before.”
Giving all 165 retirees a one-time check of $500 would cost the city $82,500. To give them an adjustment for the cost-of-living increase in the past year alone would cost about $125,000, Godwin said.
Godwin proposes three new positions — a part-time planner, a new crew leader for lien lot mowing “so we can do more of those,” and a new parks drainage employee.
The new crew leader is the only entirely new full-time position, he said.
“I propose not budgeting that until April 1 so that we’ve got that person on next year during the mowing season. He would have two people working for him so they could mow more lots more quickly during the summer months,” Godwin said.
The new parks drainage employee “is a bit unique. It works out so that in the summer time, he does a lot of park mowing and right-of-way mowing, and in the winter he does more drainage projects,” the manager said.
“That’s not a new net employee, because I propose to take that employee from either water or sewer, or from the streets department and transfer him into the parks department. It would give us another person in the parks department to help with mowing and help with trench work.”
The city manager said there are eight people in the parks department and 35 in water and sewer, “and I think a person in parks more than we need him in water and sewer.”
Godwin said a planner is needed to help the city with its strategic plan.
“We have an individual who is very interested in coming here. He’s very interested specifically in Paris. He thinks Paris has a lot of things to offer. I propose a part-time planner, who would come aboard approximately the beginning of November,” Godwin said.
No new positions were added in either the fire department or police department, both of which have had high turnover, Godwin said.
The majority of the turnover in the police department seems to be at three to seven years, Godwin said, “so we’re looking at maybe an extra seniority step in there so there’s another pay bump” that might keep officers to stay here for a career.
“Once they’ve been here for a while, officers tend to stay here, but at three or four or five years, and the officer is young, he’s got opportunities, and unfortunately a lot of the time you’ll lose some really good people,” the city manager said.
There’s also turnover among dispatchers, “and turnover leads to overtime,“ Godwin said.
Godwin said he’s looking into including some shift pay for dispatchers to make the job more attractive.
“People are more mobile nowadays, and so we lose good police officers and lose good firefighters. We just can’t do everything at once; we can’t just throw money at it,” he said.
“Neither one of those is the solution. What we do need is do some things to try to organize those departments and restructure some things and try to improve our longevity and retention of those people.”
The fire department budget includes almost $25,000 for training.
“As a result of the high turnover in the fire department, we have younger firefighters in a lot of cases that comparable cities,” Godwin said.
“We have energetic, young, strong guys out there, but the number of fires and and scenes and activities and real-life situations they work, the more training they need. So over time, we need to increase training for the fire department and some other areas as well.”
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