Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot budget includes big pay increases

Leader staff writer

The $8.2 million budget for 2008 unanimously passed the Cabot City Council on Monday night with no discussion.

Among the most noteworthy features of the spending plan are the $400,000 cash carryover from 2007, when Mayor Eddie Joe Williams came in to office (compared to the negative $37,000 in the bank at the beginning of 2007), about $600,000 in savings and substantial pay increases for the mayor, the mayor’s operations director, police chief, fire chief, district court judge and head of public works.

Those increases will be given in two increments, one in January 2008 and one in December 2008.

In December 2006, city officials believed they would start January with about $45,000 in the bank. In fact after the bills were paid the balance was a negative $37,000.

The financial crisis was averted by a $240,000 payment from Cabot WaterWorks which gave the city $230,000 for fire and police protection and $10,000 in lieu of property taxes.

To ensure that 2007 started better, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams laid off employees, cut out much of the overtime and required department heads to make do with the equipment they already had.

In years past, almost every department head was paid more than the mayor.

But in 2008, a $26,357 pay increase will take Williams’ salary from $58,643 to $85,000.

Part of the increase is from a $7,200 car allowance that was rolled into the mayor’s salary for 2008.

But the balance of $19,157 is simply a raise that is large enough to make the job attractive to candidates of all ages, not just those who have already worked long enough to draw retirement. Williams is retired from the railroad.

Former mayors have included a retired school superintendent and a retired postmaster.

The other large raises will go to Operations Director Karen Davis from $38,588 to $48,517; Police Chief Jackie Davis, from $58,879 to $77,114; Fire Chief Phil Robinson from $53,471 to $72,943; Judge Joe O’Bryan from $35,000 to $50,000; and Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell from $45,000 to $57,280.

Clerk Treasurer Marva Verkler and City Attorney Jim Taylor received only the 5 percent raises that went to other city employees except police officers who were given $4,000 pay increases.

Verkler’s salary will increase from $49,019 to $51,470 while Taylor’s will increase from $66,621 to $69,952.

“I feel like I deserved a larger raise than what I got,” Verkler said.

Her department lost two employees during the layoff that helped cut spending in the city and that meant more work for everyone, she said.

In 2008, the police department will be allowed to buy five new patrol cars.

In other business, the council unanimously passed a three-year extension of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services’ (MEMS) exclusive franchise to provide ambulance service in Cabot.

The council also voted unanimously to appoint Bert Mayer to the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission to complete the term of banker Don Keesee who left Cabot for a position in northern Arkansas.