Pay scale to climb at city - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Pay scale to climb at city

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May 2, 2006

Albany -- A raise for public safety workers and a property tax increase for Albany homeowners may be on the way.

City commissioners are now slicing and dicing next year's proposed $93 million budget. Revenues are down, and fuel and health costs are way up. But commissioners say forcing taxpayers to pick up the slack will be their last resort.

The City Manager wants to work raises for city public safety workers, from firefighters to police officers, into next year's budget. That would cost about $1.8 million, but City Manager Alfred Lott says raising salaries will help to recruit and retain much-needed public safety employees.

"To get us to the point where we can recruit somebody and pay our starting salary around $28,000 to $30,000 rather than a dismal $25,000," said Lott.

The city continues to see costs go up, but revenues lag. Health care premiums are up 10%. To save money, the city recently gave all employees medical screenings. An alarming 53% were overweight and 24 workers were taken immediately to the doctor. Three-hundred employees, considered high health risks, were enrolled in a class to improve their health.

Lott hopes these proactive measures will save money for the city and its employees in the future. "Some of those people who found out they have high blood pressure, diabetes and those type of things, instead of health cost liabilities they will be healthier people. And of course, they will be at work," said Lott.

The city is also pumping out a lot of extra money on gas. The city might have to dip into reserves this year to cover fuel costs, and they're budgeting thousands more for gas next year. To generate more money, Lott suggested raising the millage rate 1.2 mils. That would raise your property taxes $48.00 on a $100,000 house. "A 1.2-mil increase will get us about $1.6 million."

But Mayor Willie Adams says raising taxes is a last resort. "That's one of the alternatives, but it's certainly not one that we would like to chose. We have some other methods and plans that might keep us from going to a property tax increase."

But Adams says a pay raise for public safety employees is critical. And he feels most people will support a small tax increase if it means living in a safer community.

City Manager Alfred Lott also suggested a 3% raise for all city employees. The budget must be approved by June 30th.

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