By Marc Knapp
The meeting set for Oct. 11 was supposed to be a workshop on the Charleston City Council budget, but in reality it was more of a budget briefing with few questions asked by council members.
Mayor Joe Riley made a short presentation. Important points included:
- Modest growth is expected in most revenue areas in 2012; and
- No tax increases will be proposed in 2012.
Riley noted the priorities relating to spending. The first concerned adjustments to fuel, health care and workers’ compensation. Costs increases in these areas were largely beyond the control of the city.
Second, the hiring freeze/slowdown would continue. The mayor noted that the incentive scheme for early retirement would enter its second year and savings would be higher.
Finally, after adjustments relating to the above, a pay increase for employees would be considered. Higher spending on rolling stock – cars for city police department and trucks for fire department – would also be considered, as would other areas in public safety.
The draft budget for 2012 is to be presented to Council on Nov. 22, with a first reading two weeks later.
Council members F. Gary White Jr. and Aubry Alexander were not happy with this schedule and sought more time to consider the budget.
City Chief Financial Officer Stephen Bedard indicated that it was possible that a draft copies could be available before Nov. 22.
During the citizen participation portion of the meeting, there was some discussion regarding potential pay raises for staff.
It was pointed out that while city employees may have gone two to three years without an increase, they at least have jobs.
The private sector is struggling presently, as well, and it’s unlikely many workers in that arena have seen pay increases in recent years, either.