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Clarksville City Council Regular Session Budget Report – Part II, June 19th, 2013

 

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – This is a continuation of my June 9th, 2013 budget report. Here are some more of the main issues that were worked on.

Part-Time Employee Pay Raise – A council member amendment was made to raise part-time park employee salaries by 25-cents an hour. Some of these employees make minimum wage and it takes several years of city service to see any type of hourly increase.

When full-time employees receive raises, these increases do not translate into raises for the part-time. The pay increase would result in a budget increase of almost $9800.

The vote was 6-6 tie. I voted yes.

The mayor broke the tie by voting no and killing the amendment.

Pay Raise for Employees At or Above The Top Pay Scales of Their Job Series

Mayor McMillan proposed an amendment that would give a $200.00 stipend to employees that are at the maximum or over the maximum wage scale limits of the pay study that was performed a couple of years ago. The 2% pay increase would not apply to those at or above the pay scale limits.

If readers will recall, about 30% of employees did not receive increases based on that study due to being already paid at or above the level of their peers in other cities. When the study was implemented, employees receiving pay in excess of the study standards were not penalized with any pay rollbacks.

Instead, their pay was frozen until pay data showed that peer wage scales had caught up to the levels they were receiving. This stipend amendment of the mayor’s would cost $17,000. The mayor directed that the money for this late addition was to come from within the budgets of each department and all departments agreed to do so.

What is interesting is the mayor did not provide employees, who make less than the maximum pay scale, the full raise for FY 2014 that was suggested by the consulting firm that did the city pay study.  The consultants stated that a 2.2% pay raise would meet public sector increases.

Initially, the mayor was not going to provide any pay raise to employees. That initial lack of any pay increase for the rank and file employees was documented in the initial budget presentations the mayor had each department present in April.

Of course, around this time it was leaking out that several of the mayor’s personal staff had received large pay increases of up to $7000 due to the mayor rewriting their job descriptions. The 2014 budget confirmed the rumor of the mayor’s personal staff receiving such raises. So for whatever reasons the mayor agreed to a 2% pay raise for employees.

I stated, during the discussions, it seemed unfair to the taxpayer for the mayor to want to give $200.00 stipends to employees whose current pay rates had reached or exceeded the wage scale limits of the pay study. Then, turn around, and not support a full pay raise for those employees whose pay was not meeting standards and under the scale limits.

It also made some council members wonder after hearing that the budget was lean and met needs, how $17,000 was easily available for pay raises for those at or above their pay scale limits.  It was interesting that the mayor killed a 25-cent raise for part-time workers, many of whom have been in the employ of the city for years and could work up to 39 hours and still be considered part time, yet still want to give stipends for those earning above the pay scale.

Evidently, most of the council could not see the rationale either and voted 4-yes & 8-no on the mayor’s proposal, thus killing it. I voted no.

City Health Clinic – Budget Update

On May 19th, 2013 I wrote to you about what we had learned on the details of the new city health clinic. The clinic had its ribbon cutting on May 16th. As you may recall I, and other council members, were concerned about being kept out of the loop on details of this million-dollar project to include its costs, initial spending to get it going and contract details.

It seems the mayor must have been getting heat on this from several quarters as she was questioned about it on a weekend radio show (1400am WJZM). The issue was posed to the mayor that, since some council members felt they had not been part of the process, they wanted her side of the story. Mayor McMillan said it “simply was not true” and that we (the council) had been sent information continuously.

Hearing officially the city is starting a clinic and working out details and then getting the next information output eight months later when the bill has to paid for agreements made by the mayor (without the council) is not a continuous information flow. She stated during the interview there was a ground breaking a year and a half ago and it was in the media. That means that event must have taken place around January of 2012 by her statement.

Either the mayor’s calendar is different from most others or this is another case (among many) where she believed no one would check the facts. There had been “talk” that a city clinic concept was something being looked into for about a year or so.

However, concept talk was all we were hearing.  No facts, costs or contract details on council agendas.  We learned that something was actually happening when an official announcement was made on August 8th, 2012 in an email sent by the Communications Director to council members. I still have the email.

The title of the email/press release was “Mayor McMillan’s Comments Announcing New On-Site Clinic For City Of Clarksville Employees”. In that press release, it mentions that a company had been chosen (the council was not involved or invited into that process) and that staffing decisions, health programs and building space needs were still to be addressed. A YouTube tape was made on that same date.

I queried the archives of the Leaf-Chronicle using various topic titles concerning the clinic and the earliest article appearing was the press release I just referenced (August 2012). The next newspaper articles on the clinic do not appear until the current 2014 budget debate got underway (May 2013). Newspaper reporters attend all executive and regular sessions and receive all city press releases stories.

Since there is a drought of stories and information on the clinic before August 2012 and between that date and May 2013, I would guess they missed the continuous stream of information on the clinic too. The mayor stated she could provide press releases, videos and emails to prove it, but didn’t think it was necessary. I for one would like to see all those communications, which many of us council members cannot recall or find.

So while the mayor wants you to believe she had open communication with the full council on this topic, you can go back to the May 2013 tapes on this budget topic and see how she has her staff explaining to the council why the mayor did not seek council discussion/approval for a clinic contract, did not provide the costs of the program, did not tell the council she was using health insurance money to remodel a building nor get our approval for her to sign a contract that approached $1 million dollars total to get it all started.

You can also see the HR Director state that, if the council did not approve the $600.00 per employee cost of the program, there would be problems since the mayor had already signed the contract without ensuring we would approve the money for it.

There also seems to be two versions of the city clinic tale by Mayor McMillan depending on whom she is having the discussion with. During the radio interview the announcer stated he understood the clinic was established to ease the cost of health insurance to employees.

Mayor McMillan stated the clinic was established primarily as a benefit to city employees and this was something for them. According to the mayor, the clinic is not about an insurance issue and will “hopefully” save the city on its insurance premiums. The mayor stated later they expected to save money.  With the full council, the emphasis was much heavier on the saving money.

Council members did not have the actual costs of the clinic until they received a working mayor’s budget document on May 9th, 2013. We did not get to ask questions or get details of this almost million-dollar clinic project until the first budget work session on May 13th, 2013. Due to the lack of previous info and the many questions as to costs and care, the HR Director provided the first detailed information as to costs and potential savings in an email dated May 15th, 2013.

An amendment to reduce the city cost of the clinic was proposed by deleting employees that refused regular city health insurance. The mayor had decided to include these employees and have the city/taxpayer pay the cost. At $600.00 dollars in additional costs per employee, it amounts to around $90,000 for the whole city.

Many on the council believe that if an employee did not want city insurance, then the city was not obligated to pay for free health care through a clinic. The city/taxpayer foots the entire bill for the clinic, since there is no employee contribution. Efforts to delete such employees and save the money resulted in a 6-6 tie vote. I voted for the amendment. The mayor voted no, so taxpayers will foot the bill for free health care for employees that did not ask/want it.

One last item on the clinic and city health care insurance. It came out in these budget discussions that the city is talking about going self-insured on health care. It was mentioned that it might happen by the end of the year.

Interestingly, the mayor did not mention on the radio that the city was looking at self-insurance as the next step of this process. With the council having been burnt with no input on the clinic, there were many questions about the self-insurance idea.

However, when pressed for details at this year’s budget workshops, few answers were provided by the staff or mayor.  So we have no dates, costs, requirements or even the thinking of what such a program may entail. Yet, it seems the city may go that route.

So questions of if an employee were sick, would they have to go to the city clinic first and then go or be referred to their regular doctor before the city would pay the medical bill could not (or would not) be answered. This highlights another example of the “continuous” flow of information council members supposedly get.

More budget info to come.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.


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