The Chadron City Council held the second reading of the ordinances for next year’s budget and fees Monday night and finalized some figures on each.
Final action on both will come at the next council meeting the day after Labor Day.
One area now set after having options earlier is a 3% pay raise for all city employees except the relatively few covered by union contracts The budget called for a 2.5% cost of living increase, but councilman Joe Johndreau pushed hard for more.
Johndreau, elected last fall, emphasized that city workers in recent years had voluntarily taken a pay freeze and 2 years of less than 1% raises to help out during tough budget times and deserved to be rewarded.
He also reminded his colleagues that the city is losing experienced workers to both other governmental entities and the private sector in large part because of more enticing financial packages.
The council earlier in the meeting had discussed, without taking action, the salary scale for next year. It lists the starting, maximum, and mid-point for 36 different jobs from public works director and police chief to seasonal laborers and part-time janitors.
State law requires wages to be comparable for similar jobs in similar towns. City Manager John Sutherland said Chadron’s new scale brings all the salaries up to at least the minimum in the last League of Municipalities survey two years ago.
The council also finalized next year’s sewer fee increase at 5% instead of 3%, which adds $42,000 in additional revenue – about $17,000 more than 3% would have brought. The base rate will be $30 per month, a hike of $1.40.
Council members said the goal is to make sure revenue keeps up with inflation and expenses. The council is continuing its pattern of increasing utility rates every year, but alternating annually between sewer and water.
City Finance Officer Jeanette Puzzo also had news on property taxes; the final valuation for the city came in Friday $3-million dollars higher than the preliminary estimate, which will bring the city an additional $3,000 dollars.