City Council Update: City employee benefits increase along with commercial water rates

The council approved to reinstate the previous benefit of giving an additional 3% to city employee’s 401K. Finance Director Evan Nelson said it would cost $83,000 to include this and they can balance the budget
without needing to raise taxes. The city can also afford to fund a part time code enforcement officer and a full time events coordinator.

Councilman Ryan Barker, Councilman Carl Turner, and Councilwoman Cheryl Stoker supported this decision. City employees once had this benefit but it was taken away when the recession hit in 2008. Barker said he has heard it is really difficult to give a benefit back once it is taken away. He suggested to “put it back in, and leave it there.” Turner said it is key that they have balanced the budget without raising taxes. He’s not excited to raise taxes but he’s not opposed to it. Stoker was supportive and said it was hard to watch good employees go when they had lower pay and then their benefits were taken away.

Councilman Phillip Swanson did not support this decision although he made it clear he cared about the city employees. Currently, the city will match any employee’s contribution up to 3% of that employee’s income. This change will keep the matching percentage the same but add on a guaranteed 3% regardless of what the employee contributes. Swanson was supportive of raising the percentage of contribution the city would match to 5% but he was not supportive of giving a guaranteed percentage. He said few other cities do this and he can’t in good conscience agree to it.

As they were discussing the options Nelson said it’s important to consider what the city can afford when they hit another recession. “When we hire an employee we want to keep that job and service indefinitely. We don’t want to come back in 3 years and say sorry we can’t afford these benefits anymore.”

City Recorder Annette Spendlove was here during the latest recession and every department head left except her.  She said eight additional employees left from public works and six from the police department.  She suggested it’s more cost effective to increase the benefits to keep the current employees than to hire and train new employees who fill the vacancies. “We need to think about what happens when we aren’t taking care of the employees. It’s hard to lose good employees.

The city will adopt the tentative budget on June 14th.

A change in water and sewage rates

The council is considering charging the same rate to everyone in the city regardless of what they’re doing inside the building. This will increase costs primarily to commercial users who use a lot of water. Previously the base rate for commercial users has been higher than the residential base rate, but commercial didn’t have a tiered rate like residential users. The more water residential users go through, the more expensive it gets.  Swanson likes the idea of the bigger users paying more and that they’re not being subsidized by the homeowners.

The council is also considering increasing the sewer costs to commercial users. Residential users pay a flat fee for sewer. Commercial users pay a base rate and then an additional usage rate that is calculated based on water usage. The increase is going to come in the additional usage rate for commercial users.

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