Willis suggested the measure during the work session for Tuesday’s council meeting, recommending that the budget for the next fiscal year not include the 3 percent raise, called a step raise, that city employees typically get.
“We all have worked in a government job that meant step raises were a given,” Willis said to the council. “But I’m asking you to take off your governmental hat and look at Weaver like a business. Would you be happy with the spreadsheet if you were running a business?”
Willis said that since taking office the council had not made any cuts, but raised revenue by raising water and sanitation rates and adding a sales tax in the city.
“We’ve already asked Weaver residents for a lot,” Willis said. “How can you do all this and then turn around and give your employees raises?”
Councilman Mike Warren countered that if he’d been running a business, he wouldn’t have given cash incentives to businesses, a tactic the council approved earlier this year bringing a new grocery store to the city. He suggested the council wait to see how much new revenue the city receives during the next fiscal year before it suspends raises. Along with a new grocery store, Weaver annexed Heroes American Bar and Grille restaurant and Smokin’ Joes Discount Tobacco and Beverage Store earlier this month, potentially giving the city more revenue.
Councilman Tim McRae said although the pay freeze isn’t technically a cut, it would still alienate some city employees.
“They aren’t going to see it that way because they think that’s money they earned,” McRae said. “It’s tough to work your butt off and not see a reward.”
Councilman Les Hill said pay raises to the Police Department help retain employees, which is a cost-saving measure, he said.
“Research has shown it’s going to cost you more to rehire and train someone new,” Hill said.
The five council members unanimously said they were set against the freeze, and Willis said he would not include the measure while drafting the budget.
Willis will meet with department heads on Friday to discuss the upcoming budget. He said he expects to vote on a draft plan at the next council meeting.
In other business, the council:
— Discussed the Fire Department going to a volunteer department model. Fire Chief Brian Bunn met with the Calhoun County Volunteer Fire Association on Monday to ask permission for Weaver to join the association. Bunn is in the process of gathering data and will present the information for the association on Sept. 9.
— Honored Tim Lee as honorary ambassador for the city of Weaver. Willis said Lee is a “cornerstone of Weaver” and he “couldn’t think of a better ambassador for our city.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.