MOUNT WASHINGTON — At the end of a meeting lasting over six hours, the Mount Washington City Council still did not officially have a budget to approve.
The council members did, however, agree to select one of two versions of their budget for their required ordinance during its next regular meeting.
During a special budget meeting, the council approved proposed budgets for all city departments. However, when the time arrived for a vote to approve the overall proposed budget, council member Troy Barr called for an executive session to discuss personnel issues. The session lasted 53 minutes, with no decisions taking place.
Upon its return, the council discussed city employee pay raises.
Mayor Stuart Owen mentioned that the city’s general fund was factored with a 4.5 percent pay raise across the board to all city employees, with the exception of police and public works employees receiving 5 percent.
Council member Layne Abell said there were 10 city employees collectively earning more than $1 million, or 60 percent of the pay. He made a suggestion for the council to consider a scattered pay scale to compensate lower pay rates and balance out others.
Abell suggested a pay scale beginning with part-time employees and full-time employees making less than $25,000. Those employees would receive a 6.5 percent raise.
From there, the raises would be set at 5.5 percent for employees making $25,000-$50,000, 4.5 percent for $50,000-$75,000, 3.5 percent for $75,000-$100,000, and 2.5 percent for an employee making over $100,000.
He added that the employee would need to be on the city’s payroll prior to Jan. 1, 2023, to be eligible for a raise. Also, he said the change would save the city money versus paying across-the-board raises.
Council member Bruce Gooden didn’t think the police department should be included in such a plan. Abell said not including the police would make other employees feel less important. Gooden mentioned that police officers put their lives on the line.
Council member Sandra Hockenbury liked the stacked percentage raise idea, adding that even with a smaller percentage, the higher salaries would still receive more money in their raise.
Owen mentioned that public works and parks employees were set at the same pay scale. However, with public works employees working more weekends and “getting dirtier” on the job, the city was considering making public works pay “incrementally higher” in the coming years.
“We need to make a bigger gap,” Owen said. “I worry that the percentage raises will make employees upset if they get a lower raise.”
Council member Greg Gentry suggested initiating incentive pay, adding that some employees might do a better job than others but would get paid the same. Hockenbury suggested implementing incentive pay in next year’s budget after determining its implementation.
Owen suggested increased vacation time as an incentive plan. Barr said extra days could be added after employees reached certain years of service.
Hockenbury felt that scale raises and extra vacation time should help with employee retention. Council member Curt Hudson mentioned other incentives, such as working from home, gift cards and awards.
City clerk Dawn Hardin said the council would need to decide which pay raise scale to insert into the budget. She said the city could hold another special meeting, or could make that decision at the next regular meeting, prior to first reading of the city budget ordinance.
Hardin reminded the council that some department budgets approved earlier in the meeting would be void pending a pay raise change.
In other business:
- Owen mentioned the overall general fund decreased by about $1 million, but added that the change was mostly due to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. He said the bulk of the budget remained steady.
The council discussed concerns involving a decrease in taxes collected through SRS, the city’s largest employer.
Following a merger with another company, Owen said SRS employee layoffs increased. He said the city had collected as much as $550,000 annually prior to the substantial decrease.
- Abell said the city was due for a property reassessment, adding that they were missing out on the booming housing market. He added that the state rated the city as residential rather than commercial, which he said “hurts us a little.”
Owen said building, housing and construction permits decreased from the previous year. City building official Anthony Branham noted that projected engineering fees would now be paid by companies rather than residents.
- The Mount Washington Police Department budgeted almost $3.2 million in total salaries and benefits, along with $658,000 in operational expenses. Bullitt County Public Schools reimbursed the department $60,000 for providing a school resource officer.
The department currently pays 26 police officers, as well as a traffic control officer and Emergency Management director Brian Anderson.
Chief Marcus Laytham said the department was looking to purchase a drone, along with three Motorola in-car radios. The department was also looking at converting a pump station into a garage.
According to Laytham, the drone would be utilized and assist in situations, such as monitoring events and searching for missing children. Owen added that the city’s Emergency Management wanted one as well and that both departments could access it.
Laytham estimated the department’s budget to decrease by $110,000 in the coming year.
- Owen said the city took a conservative approach on its water budget due to the current economy, with most numbers remaining similar. He said tap-on fees would likely decrease in the coming year, with less water used per the Louisville Water Company.
Expenses increased regarding the city’s sewage treatment plant. Superintendent Doug Fulkerson said many maintenance issues led to the increase, such as a new gear box.
“These items are specifically built and it’s hard to get replacements and parts,” he said. “We have to have a back-up for everything.”
Fulkerson added that replacement pumps cost over $15,000 and the wait to purchase was about six months.
Public works interim director Jay Smith said employees were asked about needed equipment. The list included a Bobcat excavator and a John Deere utility tractor, both with accessories.
Smith said the Bobcat could eventually be used for water meters, while the city needed a larger tractor. He said the tractor could also be used by other departments.
Sewer director Wayne Votaw said the current vehicles were wearing down, adding that the city could trade them in to save some costs.
Votaw said the sewer department requested funding for a generator and transfer switch at the bypass lift station, along with a new mower.
He mentioned the department acquired five docking stations last year for portable generators. The department was seeking 10 more this year, eventually needing 30 overall.
At the treatment plant, Fulkerson said new catwalks were needed for better employee access.
Also needed were stainless steel aeration ramps, an all-weather sampler, a sludge press rehab, a new water pump to replace one that is aging out, and a new conveyor belt.
- Parks and Recreation director Wally Adams said a second concession stand was being added to the sports complex, along with a stand at the city’s splash pad. He said the splash pad concession stand would help recoup operational costs at the free location.
Adams mentioned that city pool visitors was increasing each season, and that the dog park had over 300 visitors last year. He said a summer concert series at the WesBanco Ampitheater also helped with concessions revenue.
With an increase in grocery costs, Adams estimated concessions revenue at $60,000, down from $168,000 last year.
“Every time we add something new we’re making sure that it’s profitable,” he said.
The department was looking for more baseball field rentals, hoping to fill every weekend through October. They were also seeking field sponsorships and hoping to improve fields at Lindsey Duvall Park to match the sports complex fields for more rental opportunities.
Other plans included upgrading a concrete surface area at Duvall Park into a pickle ball court and additional parking spaces.
Adams hoped to complete an upgrade to the surface of the all-inclusive playground, along with increasing a sitting area. He said Phase Two of the playground project included a swing set, and could possibly include a wheelchair spinner.
The department was looking into replacing older signage within the parks and enhance the existing concession stands, including the addition of a Combi oven. They also wanted to change the sign at the pool, signifying that it was now under city management.
According to Adams, coating on the LED lighting at the sports complex was going bad in some places, limiting visibility and needing improvements.
The grand total for parks and recreation improvement plans totaled $157,000.
- Hardin said the ABC budget was smaller but beneficial this year, with the police budgeting pay for ABC officer Dan Kelty, along with 10 percent of pay to back-up ABC officer Jeremy Schmidt.
Monies from the ABC budget are distributed to city programs, such as Bullitt East Project Graduation and the recent Killer Decisions mock car crash event.
Laytham said regulatory fees would likely increase this year. Hardin mentioned that the opening of Gallant Fox Brewing would also increase revenue.
- The next Mount Washington City Council meeting takes place on Monday, May 22, 6:30 pm, at Fick Hall, with the first reading of the city budget ordinance possible. The public is invited to attend.