By Christina Calloway
A freeze on hiring and raises for city employees are currently in the city administration’s plans to combat shortfalls in the 2014-2015 budget caused by a decrease in revenue.
Portales City Manager Doug Redmond said all step increases for employees scheduled after July 1 have been frozen.
The freeze applies to salary and management positions, but employees who are paid hourly are expected to get a 2 percent cost of living increase in January 2015.
Redmond said confusion among employees might have caused a wave of misinformation as to whom will receive raises.
Redmond said the reason some employees are receiving step increases this month is because those were budgeted for the fiscal year ending this month.
“Next year’s budget doesn’t have an effect on what’s going on now,” Redmond said.
Redmond added some employees with the Portales Police Department, mostly higher ranking officers, were awarded raises after the Portales City Council approved an updated pay plan for the department in November.
The plan was updated to fairly pay officers at their ranks and to be used as a recruitment tool to improve staffing issues.
Redmond said the suspension of pay plans for city employees is a “much better option” than increasing premiums in insurance because that would affect take home pay.
“We felt like this was the least painful option,” Redmond said.
In order to keep employees informed on these changes and to improve transparency, Redmond and other administrators will meet with the city’s various departments to discuss the changes.
Redmond has asked the city’s councilors also be present for these meetings.
City Councilor Leo Lovett said he believes in full disclosure with the city’s employees but stresses the budget is a preliminary one and nothing is set in stone.
Lovett, however, did agree with Redmond that the freeze was the better option than increasing insurance premiums.
“If we increase the amount they have to pay for insurance premiums then they’ll definitely have less take home pay,” Lovett said. “If at all possible, I would rather not freeze salaries if we can find ways to fund them but as a city we have to recognize funding revenues have been short the past couple of years.”
Lovett said all discussions have been preliminary.
“We haven’t gotten to the final budget yet,” Lovett said.