Employees will have to wait two more weeks for pay raises as aldermen review a last minute request to change the method for calculating the amount each employee will receive.
Aldermen gave preliminary approval to a salary schedule ordinance for a 4.5 percent raise across the board to all employees, with slightly more in some cases.
The salary schedule was on the Oct. 3 meeting agenda for final approval, but aldermen learned at that meeting that Mayor Jeff Palmore preferred a flat amount increase for all employees.
Palmore was not present at the previous meeting, which was chaired by Alderman Carol Johnson, mayor pro tem.
City Administrator Steve Roth presented a new salary schedule that would raise every employee’s pay by 86 cents an hour, or $1,788.80 per year.
If that schedule is approved by ordinance, most employees will receive slightly more than they would have with the 4.5 percent pay raise. But 10 employees will receive less than they would have received with a percentage of pay increase.
Aldermen Nick Chlebowski, Steve Myers and Andy Nemeth liked the mayor’s recommendation, saying it seemed more favorable to employees.
However, Aldermen Mike Pigg and Johnson refused to approve the new schedule in the meeting saying more time was needed and employee groups affected by the change should be contacted before the board acted.
Pigg said the city had negotiated with union workers for years who stated that they preferred a percentage increase.
“Are we now going to go against the union without going back to them?” Pigg asked.
Robert Brueggemann said members of the public works department had met in collective bargaining and the last time they were asked to vote on the question of raises, voted to have a percentage of pay as the amount of increase.
Ed Gass, former public works commissioner, said he thought the union members did not have an actual contract that binds the city to any agreement, but City Attorney Robert Jones disagreed.
“It is a collective bargaining agreement and it is binding,” said Jones.
“At the very least they need to be aware that what they thought they were getting, they are not getting,” Johnson said. “Out of respect, we need to go back to them.”
Roth said he did not think the city had to go back to union members before voting on the method of increase.
“I can’t recite the language (of the agreement) by heart, but I don’t think we have to go back to them,” he said.
Pigg also said he believes the 4.5 percent hikes was the right type of raise because it rewards employees of longstanding.
“These are the people who have been with us for the long haul,” he said. “We should want to reward them.”
Pigg made a motion to approve the salary schedule with the percentage increase included, but the measure failed 3-2 with Chlebowski, Myers and Nemeth voting against the measure. Johnson and Pigg voted in favor. Alderman Greg Rahn was not present at the meeting.
Pigg said he was especially incensed at having the measure brought to the board for a vote without aldermen having more time to review the topic.
“It aggravates me to put something on the dais that we have to vote on the same night,” he said. “We had a special meeting to talk about the budget and now we have to change the whole strategy.
“We have lost a couple of months,” he said. “This should never have been done on the night of the vote.”
Myers said that while he believes the flat amount per hour is the more preferable method, the measure should not have been brought to aldermen on the night of the vote.
Myers said Johnson and Pigg would have two weeks, until the next board meeting, to discuss the matter with affected departments.
The next board of aldermen meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 17.