Lucas urges pay plan tweaks for Macon workers

Three weeks after the passage of a pay plan for all city employees — and shortly before the first paychecks bearing its results will be mailed out — Councilwoman Elaine Lucas says she’s “ready for the tweaking to begin.”

City Council approved the plan in a 9-5 vote Dec. 21, with Lucas and fellow council members Ed DeFore, Henry Ficklin, James Timley and Virgil Watkins voting against it.

The plan put $1.2 million into city pay over the next six months, with twice that amount to be paid out in the next fiscal year. The bulk of the raises go to police and firefighters, but only 58 of the city’s 1,250 employees didn’t get some increase, city officials said.

Many of those raises were small, though, and pay plan opponents objected to sizable pay increases for some senior administrators, especially a $27,000 annual raise for Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas.

Even those who supported it acknowledged the plan was just a starting point, Lucas said. When it passed, she expressed doubt that Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration would make any adjustments, so she submitted a resolution urging two actions.

As presented to the council’s Employee Development and Compensation Committee on Wednesday, her resolution would have the Carl Vinson Institute of Government review the plan and potentially recommend changes within three months.

It also asks the mayor to set up an appeals process and associated board of “public and private individuals” to hear employee pay appeals and recommend alterations.

Committee member Lauren Benedict said the council relied on Reichert’s pledge to continue consulting the Carl Vinson Institute, which did the study upon which the plan is based. The plan should be regularly reviewed to keep it current, she said.

Some of the resolution’s language is “inflammatory,” but its spirit is good, Benedict said.

Lucas, tacitly acknowledging that point, agreed to strike one line that called for the redistribution of Thomas’ raise if a review finds it “excessive.”

She offered to also change her wording of pay plan “problems” to “concerns” if the committee found that “more palatable,” but committee Chairman Charles Jones shrugged that off.

“I don’t have many problems with the word ‘problems,’” he said.

Lucas’ resolution passed 4-0 and won’t become official unless approved by the City Council. After the committee vote, Assistant Public Works Director Larry Dunning spoke up to thank members for seeking some appeals process. Many of the raises for city rank-and-file employees such as landfill workers won’t amount to much after taxes, he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.