City Council meets in another budget workshop to discuss staff raises

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Members of the Minden City Council, along with Mayor Terry Gardner and several department heads, met Monday morning in a budget workshop to focus primarily on staff salaries and raises.

District A Councilman Wayne Edwards said he feels the council has been portrayed in a negative light, “towards the budget and working within the system.”

“We all want the same thing … that’s what’s best for the city 100 percent of the time,” Edwards said. “We’ve worked real hard on this budget, and I’m kind of a stickler about doing things the same 100 percent of the time.”

Edwards went on to point out that he believes two of the department heads are receiving an excessive raise.

“The only thing that I ask is that we come to a compromise and what we do for one, we do for all,” Edwards said.

Gardner explained that with those two departments, he hired persons at a lower salary than previous employees in the same position or, in the case of the human resources position, a lower salary than comparable positions in other cities.

“The economic developer in the past was making $72,000 a year,” Gardner said. “The economic developer I hired is making $42,000 a year.”

According to the hiring agreement, once the employee, Phillip Smart, brought in a business with 10 full-time employees, he would get a $6,000 increase, bringing his salary to $48,000.

“The reduced salary, added with his new position of occupational licenses which, the previous year brought in $300,000 … this year to date, brought in $570,000 in occupational licenses,” Gardner said. “So, to me, it’s a win-win for the city because he created more revenue to put in the budget at what is still a lower salary than previously.”

Human Resources Director April Augilar manages 200 employees at $50,000 a year.

“If you look at other municipalities, her salary should’ve been $80,000,” Gardner said. “I told her after she built the department and proved herself with the added responsibilities, I don’t think a $5,000 increase from $50 to $55,000 a year is excessive.”

District C Councilman Vincen Bradford said he feels the budget reads that not only will Smart receive the $6,000 raise at his one-year employment mark, he will also receive one when and if the budget is passed.

“It says it right here in the budget,” Bradford claimed.

However, Gardner said that is not the case, and that he has the authority to grant the raise, even though the budget has not yet been approved by the council.

In addition, raises for police officers and firefighters were discussed at length. District D Councilman Michael Roy said he worked with Gardner to find a way to get raises in the budget to bring them up to a respectable rate of $16.50 per hour for police officers (currently at $13.75) and around $13 for firefighters (currently at $8.85).

Bradford asked that Roy meet with interim City Clerk Michael Fluhr to study Roy’s suggestion and bring it back to the council during another budget workshop.

All council members were present, with the exception of District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker.

Bradford requested that, instead of setting a date and time for the next workshop, the mayor’s office call all councilpersons and ask when they can attend.