Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s proposed pay scale for all city employees got a skeptical, almost derisive and dismissive, reception from about one-fifth of the city’s work force Wednesday evening.
A question Reichert meant to be rhetorical brought what became a typical reply in the meeting.
“Is it perfect? No,” the mayor asked. “Is it a good start to give us something to work from?”
“No,” came the reply from many of the people packing the City Council chamber.
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Councilwoman Elaine Lucas called the meeting, backed by fellow council members Henry Ficklin, Rick Hutto, Lonnie Miley and James Timley. Lucas has proposed scrapping the proposed system in favor of at least one of her own proposals: an immediate $500 bonus for employees or an across-the-board $1,400 raise.
Reichert presented his comprehensive pay plan Nov. 30. It’s based on a study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and is meant to get as close to the market rate for similar cities as Macon can currently afford, he said.
Macon Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard said about 80 percent of the proposed $1.2 million in pay hikes this year would go to police and firefighters. The plan would put all full-time employees on a stepped system, and while 58 people would be “frozen” at their current pay rates for some time, no one would take a pay cut, he said.
Critics on City Council have decried double-digit raises for many upper-level administrators, especially singling out a $27,000 raise for Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas.
When Hutto mentioned that in Wednesday’s meeting, muttering swept the room. Thomas sat silently in the crowd.
Reichert emphasized that while some employees might get little or nothing extra, others would get hundreds or even several thousand dollars, and there are no cuts, even for a few jobs downgraded in status.
“Nobody lost any money by going on the pay scale,” he said.
Hubbard said the administration is trying to start addressing 12 years of inequities built up since the end of the last formal pay plan, but for now the administration has to do what the city can afford.
“Our biggest problem had to do with fire and police,” he said. There are 702 sworn officers in those departments, and more than 300 of those jobs had turned over in the past five years, he said. Thus 80 percent of the raises will go to them. The only allowances for seniority will be distributed among police and fire privates, Hubbard said.
Though many others suggested that many proposed raises are inadequate, Ficklin said funding for only the rest of this fiscal year is assured, and next year’s city budget remains tight.
“We don’t know where the other $2.4 million is going to come from,” he said.
Passing a microphone around, several city employees said the proposed plan apparently doesn’t give credit for the extra duties some people have assumed to cover for vacant positions, and they said lack of a seniority allowance tells them that loyalty doesn’t matter.
A man who identified himself as a 12-year veteran of the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department asked why he and the 17-year veteran next to him would be assigned to the same pay grade.
Hubbard’s reply fell flat: The city lacks money for more seniority allowances, and the plan is designed to “incentivize” employees to seek promotion to higher paying grades.
The firefighter’s reply drew a round of applause: “Y’all need to look after us like we look after y’all.”
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.