11/5/2012 12:07:00 PM Prescott Valley council backs raises for employees
Ken Hedler Special to the Tribune
Town government employees, who have coped with austerity measures for nearly five years, are likely to receive modest raises by the start of the new fiscal year July 1, 2013.
The Town Council members designated pay hikes for employees as a top priority when they met Friday morning with department heads to discuss the budget for fiscal year 2013-14. Employees have not received raises in about five years.
"We want to give the employees a little increase if we can," Mayor Harvey Skoog said after the meeting. "It probably won't be much."
Skoog said employees might receive a cost-of-living or merit increase, adding the six other council members are unanimous in supporting a pay hike.
Raises could go into effect this fiscal year, Skoog said, adding, "I'm not sure we can swing it."
Skoog and other council members said town employees are doing an outstanding job.
Councilman Michael Whiting agreed with Skoog that a pay hike for the employees is "the number one consideration" of the council members.
"We had discussions afterward around the room," Whiting said. "We need to do things to keep the employees (working) in Prescott Valley."
If the employees do not get a raise, they will leave for higher-paying jobs, said Whiting, who is retired from United Way.
Whiting also cited slow improvements in the economy.
Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye concurred with Whiting.
"I am just so grateful that we have reached this point in a recession that it is fiscally possible to do this (raise)," she said.
Nye said employees have gone "too many years" without a raise. A raise, she said, will give a small boost to employee morale.
Councilwoman Patty Lasker said, "The town's employees have not had a raise in five years, and they have been very dedicated to the community. We appreciate their efforts for us."
Lasker said town employees have made sacrifices in recent years.
Town Manager Larry Tarkowski initiated austerity measures in October 2007 because he received predictions of a drop in revenues. The austerity measures started with a hiring freeze for positions paid for with General Fund money - which finances a majority of municipal services - and spread to include cuts in employee hours, closing most town government offices on Fridays and transferring a number of employees to the new library after it opened three years ago.
The council restored employee hours from 38 to 40 a week and reopened all town offices to the public on Fridays when the council adopted a budget of nearly $66.7 million for the current fiscal year.
Employee costs account for about $15.4 million of the budget. The town also budgeted for 187 employees for this fiscal year.