City Council considers raises for most employees

The Gillette City Council on Tuesday passed the first of three readings for budget amendments which would include raises for all its employees except the city council, which has not received a wage adjustment since 1998. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

The Gillette City Council approved its first reading for raises to nearly all city employees at Tuesday’s special meeting. The only exception to the pay increases would be the City Council itself.

City Administrator Hyun Kim briefly went over the details in a nine-minute special meeting and public hearing Tuesday night for routine amendments to the fiscal year 2021/22 budget. The wage increase portion of the amendment is a reward that some feel is overdue with inflation since the start of the pandemic. The measure has two more readings on the next two Tuesdays before it can be given final approval.

With no raises over the past four years, Kim said it is time to help the city’s employees with their own growing financial responsibilities with a 3% raise across the board. The city would not have to dip into reserve monies to make it happen. The previous pay increase four years ago was also 3%.

An increase in pay for the City Council will not be a part of the wage increase. The board has not received a raise since 1998, according to city spokesman Geno Palazzari.

“From the standpoint of our General Fund Expenditures, the vast majority of the budget amendments have to do with General Fund wage adjustments, specifically we are making wage adjustments within our police department and public works department,” said Kim.

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“We are also instituting, with your consideration and subsequent two readings, a cost-of-living adjustment for all city employees for 3%.”

The additional funds for water and wage adjustments for public works total $398,694 are separate and tied to the enterprise and electrical funds.

Kim brought the idea to the to the council at last month’s meeting and said he would bring a number to the table in the very near future. That time was Tuesday.

“The City Council is considering this line item specifically due to the deteriorating conditions on the ground when it comes to inflation and cost of living. Your staff knows better than most [and] has been doing a yeoman’s task without any adjustments to their salaries from the standpoint of a cost-of-living adjustment,” Kim said. “There have been one-time payments to employees in consideration for their great work, but they have not seen a cost-of-living adjustment since January of 2018.”

Kim also addressed the need to retain staff within the electrical services field.

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“We’re making adjustments to our operators, our journeyman linemen as well as supervisors. We have a robust apprenticeship program here in the city. It is bar-none, utilities director Mike Cole, and the team there they do a great program.”

Kim added that market conditions, even in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, have resulted in the city losing journeyman lineman and other staff to public and private utilities. Those staff will be receiving an additional adjustment in addition to the across the board 3% raise.

All together next year, the cost of the wage increase would have a price tag of about $1.1M, according to figures presented to the city council by Kim.

“We believe we have robust reserves to pay for this,” Kim added. “Most likely we will have capacity throughout the year, so we do not have to tap into fund balance to actually pay for this.”