Scott County

Georgetown mayor recommends no raises, fewer paid holidays for city workers

GEORGETOWN — Mayor Karen Tingle-Sames recommended a budget Thursday that offers no pay raises for city workers, eliminates six paid holidays and reduces retirement pay for police and firefighters.

The Georgetown mayor said the $17 million budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year had to be balanced because the city has no money left in reserves. She said the city could not have any expenses without matching revenues.

She said all recurring and projected revenues, which have declined in recent years, were used in the budget.

"The downturn in the economy has forced us to make critical adjustments," Tingle-Sames said.

But she proposed no new taxes, although some have been discussed in recent months, and no layoffs.

Reducing holiday pay is expected to save the city $100,000. The five holidays that would remain, under the mayor's plan, include Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Also, Tingle-Sames said $1 million has been budgeted for health benefits, a reduction of $800,000 from last year's budget. She said an insurance committee will start working on health policy next week.

The mayor invited the public to the budget presentation at the Thomas & King Conference Center. She fielded several questions and comments about cuts to the police department.

Tingle-Sames recommended police officers and firefighters be placed on the state retirement plan instead of a hazardous duty plan.

Cities currently contribute about 32 percent to the retirement system for hazardous duty employees and about 16 percent for other employees.

Tommy Cooper, president of the Royals Springs Fraternal Order of Police chapter, said Georgetown will become "less attractive to prospective officers and firefighters" if the change is implemented.

"Their jobs are a lot more stressful than the average worker," Cooper said.

Police chief Greg Reeves echoed Cooper's concerns, saying he might not be able to attract high-quality officers.

Tingle-Sames said she thinks more cities will begin to place new officers and firefighters on the state plan, which "will level the playing field."

Cooper said the department might not be able to hire new police officers if it doesn't receive a grant for six new officers that the mayor refers to in her budget recommendation.

Cooper said federal recommendations suggest Georgetown should have about 60 officers, but the city has about 44.

Tingle-Sames suggested that any money from traffic tickets in excess of $40,000, which would remain in the general fund, be used for new vehicles. Cooper said the department desperately needs them.

Reeves said the department usually brings in about $50,000 from traffic citations. Cooper said a cruiser can cost $20,000.

Tingle-Sames said that if revenues increase by December, she plans to use that money to improve employees' health benefits and create a reserve pool.