WARNER ROBINS -- In the last vote of 2011, all Warner Robins City Council members -- including Mayor Chuck Shaheen -- shot their hands into the air Monday to support an ordinance to implement a city employee payroll adjustment.
Yet the ordinance lacked a timeline, funding source or specific plan selection.
“It allows me to start working on where we’re going to get the money from,” Shaheen said after the meeting. “What it does is, allows me to move forward with plans.”
In summary, the ordinance says City Council will enact a University of Georgia payroll study that found city employees to be largely underpaid, but it will only be after the researchers take the city’s benefits package into account. Councilman Daron Lee said the council agreed on the most competitive salary plan but did not select which seniority payments would be included.
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“The Carl Vinson Institute says it will only take three days to evaluate the city’s benefits package,” Councilman Bob Wilbanks said after the meeting. The institute is a government research group at UGA.
Monday’s decision was somewhat unexpected, following a heated argument between Shaheen and Wilbanks at Thursday’s precouncil meeting. In that meeting, Wilbanks insisted City Council approve the most competitive of the six plans offered by the institute.
Shaheen argued it would be irresponsible to vote on a study that is still in draft form and that the city chief finance officer says cannot be funded until fiscal 2013. The plan Wilbanks wanted to implement would cost $1.41 million.
“I’m not completely happy because I didn’t get everything I wanted,” Wilbanks said Monday but added he was pleased with the vote.
The vote was the last for Councilmen Tom Simms Jr., John Williams and Wilbanks. Simms and Wilbanks did not seek re-election, and Williams was overwhelmingly ousted.
Shaheen said it was the councilmen’s soon-to-be replacements who shifted the payroll study discussion to “a compromise.” Carolyn Robbins, Mike Brashear and Mike Davis worked with Councilmen Mike Daley and Paul Shealy after the precouncil meeting to find the middle-ground decision, Shaheen said.
“What it says is they’re communicating and compromising,” he said.
Shaheen said he hopes to pass a more definitive resolution by July, when the next city budget begins.
If nothing else, he said, the Monday ordinance gives the city employees some reassurances after a 1994 study revealed the same salary discrepancies but was never implemented.
“The employees got discouraged by that,” Shaheen said. “This shows them we’re going to do something.”
Also at Monday’s meeting:
City Council passed a resolution to pay Warner Robins employees a 1.5 percent cost-of-living-adjustment that was previously approved in this year’s budget. The adjustment discussion at Thursday’s precouncil sparked the argument between Shaheen and Wilbanks.
City Council also unanimously approved an ordinance to raise liquor license fees for local businesses. The fee for package sales is now $5,000, and the fee for single sales is now $4,000 -- an increase of $500 each. Shaheen said the increases could generate about $80,000 next year.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.