City budget proposal has few COLAs

April 04, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown's $64.4 million proposed budget for fiscal year 2001 doesn't include cost of living raises for most city employees, City Finance Director Al Martin told the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday.

If approved it would be the first time in recent memory city employees didn't get a cost of living raise. Step raises, which are experience-based raises, are funded in the proposed budget.

Also, several unionized Light Department employees have cost of living raises included in their current contract with the city. Martin said fewer than 20 employees are covered by the contract.

Martin said cost of living raises, sometimes called cost of living adjustments, or COLAs, are typically 2-3 percent a year.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said while funding for cost of living raises isn't in the proposed budget, it is too early to say whether or how much funding for COLAs will be in the final budget.


"There will be further discussion," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman's proposed budget was made available Friday afternoon.

The Mayor and City Council held their first public review of the budget Tuesday. In addition to receiving a general overview of the proposed budget, they went through some of the proposed changes in fees and rates.

The mayor and council members didn't comment on most of the proposals.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer suggested looking into eliminating the city's curbside paper recycling program as a way to avoid a proposed $2 increase to the trash collection fee.

Residents currently pay $82 a year for trash service. The annual fee would go to $84 under the proposed budget.

Boyer said the curbside paper recycling doesn't seem to be used by many residents. He said those who do use the service probably would use the Washington County recycling containers if the city recycling service was discontinued.

Martin said the proposed trash collection fee increase would cover the projected increased cost of the service.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein asked if staff was looking into ways to cut health care costs, which are projected to increase by 17 percent.

Zimmerman said they were and council would be given health care options in the future.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said it seemed like many of the proposed rate increases were prompted by comparisons to rates and fees in other cities.

And Hagerstown's fees and rates are "creep(ing) up to other city's (rates)"

McClure said the city should look into recommending rate schedules for the city-owned ice rink. Currently, the ice rink is run by a private nonprofit group that sets the rates.

The Mayor and City Council are scheduled to continue reviewing the budget at their weekly Tuesday meetings during April.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 2.

The council is expected to take a final vote on the budget on May 23.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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