Originally created 11/19/02

Board to hear Kolb's request



A $1 million salary plan that has been rejected twice will go before the Augusta Commission a third time today - this time as part of the city's 2003 budget.

Although the commissioners have a slightly better handle on the city's finances than they did when they considered salary reclassifications six weeks ago, that isn't expected to change their minds.

"I don't think we need to give all those people increases at this time," Commissioner Bobby Hankerson said. "Everybody is going to be cutting (this year)."

Early last month, the commissioners voted unanimously against awarding salary increases to top-tier employees, citing the poor economy and questions about the 2003 budget. It was the second time this year that the salary plan had been rejected.

Now that the 2003 budgeting season has arrived, City Administrator George Kolb is going back before the commission today to ask that the new salaries be adopted as part of the budget.

Under the reclassification proposal, some middle managers would see increases ranging from $1,200 to more than $15,000. Many of those employees received $5,000 or $6,000 raises beginning in August.

"I'm not going to make any predictions on what they're going to do," Mr. Kolb said Monday. "It's their budget, but I made a recommendation, which I believe is sound."

Mr. Kolb's 2003 budget balances the city's $55.7 million general fund with a proposed 0.3-mill property tax increase and a suggested $1.7 million withdrawal from the city's general fund reserves. Combined, the two revenue items would add about $2.7 million to city coffers.

The commissioners have resisted the suggested revenue increases, citing last year's tax increase, a lagging economy and the threat of a wartime recession.

"There is still that sour taste many people have over giving substantial pay raises to senior management in a very short period of time," Mayor Bob Young said. "Two years of property tax increases only adds insult to that injury."

Mr. Kolb says gradual tax increases are necessary to avoid large emergency ones later. The proposed 0.3-mill increase amounts to about $10.50 more in property taxes on a $100,000 house with homestead exemption.

The salary plan has been included in the 2003 budget and would cost $1,012,180, including merit pay raises for the remaining city employees.

If the commission chooses to forgo reclassifications and award only merit raises, however, it could use about $500,000 toward something else in the general fund budget, such as maintaining the new Augusta Common downtown, funding a vacant lot cleanup crew and paying for a new stormwater-maintenance program.

The property tax increase would pay for all three programs.

PAY RAISE POSSIBILITIES

The Augusta Commission is considering big raises for some high-ranking city employees:

  • Deputy Administrator Fred Russell: Current salary: $79,291; proposed raise: $8,169
  • Riverwalk Augusta Coordinator Romi Thompson: Current salary: $36,990, which includes a $1,466 raise in August; proposed raise: $15,376
  • Transit Director Heyward Johnson: Current salary: $66,219, which includes an $8,059 raise in August; proposed raise: $5,018
  • License and Inspection Director Rob Sherman: Current salary: $65,576, which includes a $4,643 raise in August; proposed raise: $5,661
  • Deputy Finance Director Tammy Strange: Current salary: $64,612, which includes a $5,387 raise in August; proposed raise: $6,625
  • Human Resources Director Brenda Byrd-Pelaez: Current salary: $65,576, which includes a $2,746 raise in August; proposed raise: $5,661
  • Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.