By Paul Rignell
Monticello City Council members voted 3-2 July 23 to approve cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) of 2 percent for city staff, effective Aug. 1. The decision will have an estimated impact of $29,900 on the remaining 2012 budget.
Council entered the year with $69,600 in the budget for COLA, which hadn’t been approved since a 1-percent raise in 2009, and $24,000 to cover half-step increases for eligible employees contingent on their annual reviews. Step increases have been suspended from the start of 2011, and were not considered with the COLA this week.
Council member Lloyd Hilgart prompted a mid-year review of the city’s ability to make cost-of-living increases (first by the Personnel Committee) after an influx of development-related revenues and some budget savings due to recent staff transitions. After the Personnel Committee’s review, Mayor Clint Herbst said he would support a 2-percent increase.
Council member Glen Posusta voted against the raise, and said he might have considered it more for the start of 2013. He said many employees from parks, public works and other departments are getting nearly $50,000 a year as it stands. “To me, that’s a pretty good living wage for this area,” he said.
Following a comparison with some other cities, and Posusta said he received data from Monticello human resources official Tracy Ergen, staff members are being paid favorably, he said. “The lion’s share of our people are either at the high end or at least above the middle of the scale,” Posusta said. “If we were in the middle of the road or on the short end of the scale, I would say yes tonight.
“I think our people are getting paid pretty well,” he added. “I think they do a good job, but at this time I’m inclined to (vote no).”
Council member Tom Perrault joined Posusta in voting against the increase. Perrault said he never wanted COLA in the budget in the first place; he favors step increases, he said, because they are performance-based.
The raise will mean the city has enacted adjustments of 4 percent total for staff from the start of 2008. “I think we’ve held it down (wages) as much as we could for as long as we could,” said Council member Brian Stumpf.
“I don’t disagree (with your pay scale reading),” the mayor told Posusta. “I think everyone’s being compensated fairly, but I think this is very minimal.”