Fayette County

Pay raise draws scrutiny

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry wants to give one of his commissioners a 12.7 percent salary increase at a time when the city faces a projected $27 million budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.

The Urban County Council will be asked Thursday if it wants to raise the salary of Kyna Koch, the finance and administration commissioner, from $110,947 to $125,000.

Koch received an unsolicited job offer from the state, said Susan Straub, Newberry's spokeswoman. "We proposed a counter offer, and are very happy she elected to stay."

The city tries to keep its salaries competitive with the private sector, Straub said. "Kyna's salary was significantly under that of the CFO averages in Lexington, Cincinnati and Louisville."

It's unclear whether the council will approve the pay increase. Councilwoman Andrea James said she will probably vote against it.

As finance commissioner, Koch has been the one telling council members how tough things are for the city's finances, James said.

"She's the one who's been relaying that message, so it's kind of weird to have the pay increase come from someone who has been telling us that things are tight," James said.

James said the raise could also send a bad message. "It doesn't look good for government to say, 'We need to keep you, so we'll give you a raise.' Especially when that person is one of the highest-paid people in government, when other people didn't get their increases and are just as valuable as that person."

In the most recent city budget, city employees who aren't covered by collective bargaining contracts received a 2.3 percent pay raise.

Last April, council members and Newberry declined a 2.8 percent salary increase for themselves because of the city's budget situation.

The timing is terrible, said Councilman Kevin Stinnett. "But when you look at Koch's individual merits and put everything together, I'm going to have to support it."

Koch has done an "outstanding job" dealing with the city's financial computer problems, coming up with a funding fix for the police and firefighter pension and overseeing three new departments — budgeting, community development and human resources — that her predecessor did not, Stinnett said.

"She has earned a right to have a pay increase right now," he said. "No one likes a pay increase during a tough budget time, but you have to look at the job on the merits."