Council narrowly approves hike in wage, benefit package

June 21, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


One month after passing a 2006-07 budget, the Hagerstown City Council narrowly approved a three-year plan to increase wages and benefits for city employees.

The council voted 3-2 on Tuesday in favor of the plan, which has been projected to cost the city about $5 million over three years to fully fund.

As it crafted the coming year's budget in April and May, the council debated the wage and benefit plan at length. Ultimately, though, the council put off a decision when it passed a budget.


On Tuesday, when the issue resurfaced, council members Lewis C. Metzner, Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean voted in favor.

Council members Kelly S. Cromer and Kristin B. Aleshire were opposed.

Both Cromer and Aleshire said they don't oppose the concept of wage and benefit increases for city employees.

Rather, they consider a consultant's study that recommended the increases to be flawed. Aleshire said the study ignored, for example, regional differences in the cost of living, housing values, income and more.

The wage and benefit study has been tied to changes in the city's health insurance for employees and retirees.

Cromer attacked proposed insurance changes as unfair to retirees.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the wage increases were necessary to fairly compensate employees who could earn more elsewhere for similar work.

Retirees will pay 20 percent of medical costs, a "big change" from having the city pay 100 percent, Bruchey said. But the change is needed, he said, particularly with current employees subsidizing about 80 percent of the costs incurred by retirees younger than 65.

The city hired Springsted Inc. to study its employees' wages and compare them to other municipalities'.

The report, which Springsted presented to the City Council in March, concluded that about 12 percent of the city's employees are making significantly less than the recommended minimum pay.

Nigh said Tuesday that the City Council failed to fix the wage problem over the years.

"If we don't soon do something, we are going to be looking at a sad situation," she said.

On the other hand, Aleshire said the city likely will have to increase its tax rate by 3 or 4 cents per year in the next few years to pay for the increases.

How Hagerstown City Council members voted Tuesday on a proposal to increase wages and benefits for city employees:

  • Kristin B. Aleshire no

  • Kelly S. Cromer no

  • Lewis C. Metzner yes

  • Penny M. Nigh yes

  • Alesia D. Parson-McBean yes
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