published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

City of Chattanooga proposes 3 percent pay raises


by Cliff Hightower
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  • photo
    Daisy Madison, Chattanooga's chief financial officer
    Photo by David Banks

Poll
Should every City of Chattanooga employee receive a 3 percent raise?

Every city employee could see a pay increase this year.

Daisy Madison, Chattanooga's chief financial officer, told City Council members Tuesday that $2.9 million will be put aside for salaries.

"We're proposing a 3 percent increase across the board," she said.

The 3 percent increase would pertain to the civilian side of the workforce, Madison said. All sworn police officers and firefighters instead would have money placed into their career development ladders, which rewards job training.

The raise also would not affect salaries of the mayor or City Council, which are dictated by what the county mayor is paid.

Not all council members were happy with the proposal for the city employees.

Councilman Russell Gilbert said he wanted to look after the lower-wage employees and felt a percentage increase wouldn't be enough for those who are on the bottom end of wages.

"I still feel like the lower wage employee ... a 3 percent raise isn't as much to them as the higher end," he said.

The City Council is in the midst of discussing a $209 million budget proposed for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The council plans to vote on the budget within a few weeks.

Mayor Ron Littlefield unveiled his budget three weeks ago and included the $2.9 million for salaries. But city administrators had not decided how to implement salary increases.

Madison said that if the council approves this would be the first across-the-board wage hike since 2008.

Councilman Jack Benson also expressed reservations about the increases.

"We have 10 people making over $100,000 and those 10 people will get a $3,000 increase," he said.

Benson said the raise would add to the "disparity" between lower-wage workers and the higher-wage workers.

But Madison said the city could not play around with its current pay plan because if lower-wage workers were paid too much they could move within the pay range of the top wage earners.

"It never fails, we have someone who comes to bumping up against the pay of their supervisor," she said.

The city put aside $1.3 million for the career ladder for the police department. Union officials asked a month ago for the city's take-home cars to be restored to those who live in the county. Those officers now have to pay a fee.

But Littlefield said those officers could either have the money for salaries or they could use the money for the take-home cars.

The council had little talk about that issue Tuesday.

The council will continue talking about salaries next week and also will discuss funding for social service agencies.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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