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City council OKs pay-increase proposal

August 02, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A proposal to give city of Martinsburg workers a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase cleared the city council’s budget and finance committee Tuesday.

Merit pay increases, averaging 2.5 percent, also were approved by the panel as part of budget adjustments for the current 2011-12 fiscal year, which began July 1.

The council is expected to vote on the pay adjustments Aug. 11 at its next regular meeting. The raises were not included in this year’s budget for the third year in a row, officials said. If adopted, the raises would be made effective July 1, 2011.

City Manager Mark Baldwin and Finance Director Mark Spickler cited stabilization of the city’s revenue and reduced operating expenses as reasons for recommending the pay adjustments.

The merit pay and cost-of-living increases for all city departments, including police and fire/EMS, are estimated to cost the city an additional $359,060, according to documents reviewed by the committee.

In a separate recommendation Tuesday, the committee approved a plan to set aside $500,000 as part of a contingency plan to cover the cost of the pay increases if operating revenue and expenses fail to remain stable and meet projections in the next two years.

The contingency money is part of $1.6 million in “unassigned” funds that were carried over from the 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Aside from the contingency for the pay increases, the committee also accepted recommendations by Baldwin to put 10 percent of the fund balance into the city’s general development, or “rainy day,” fund.

Another $300,000 was set aside for street paving and curb improvements for the disabled, and $280,000 was earmarked for various street department requests, including a sidewalk project along Porter Avenue and streetlights along the yet-to-be-completed Raleigh Street extension.

Other than intersection and bridge lighting, Baldwin told the committee that streetlights never were part of the state-designed Raleigh Street project, Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he hopes the additional lighting could be incorporated into the 1.1-mile extension of Raleigh Street in cooperation with Potomac Edison and the state Department of Transportation to save money.

Baldwin’s recommendation that $50,000 be set aside for the Adam Stephen statue project also was accepted by the committee, but Councilwoman Betty Gunnoe said she did not support spending that amount of money for a statue when residents were asked to pay more in taxes last year to balance the budget.

“They should be able to go out there and raise $50,000 in private funds,” Gunnoe said. “I mean, if they come up $5,000 short, fine. But I don’t know why they have to look to us to fund the whole thing.”

Even if the budget recommendations are approved by the council, Spickler said Tuesday that the city only will have committed to actually spending up to $6,000 for the process of choosing a sculptor, not the sculpture itself.

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