By Christina Calloway
Freezing step increases for Portales city employees was a solution city officials reluctantly suggested to shore up a decrease in revenue in the city’s 2014-2015 preliminary budget.
But with pressure from city’s councilors and support from the city’s leaders, the city’s administration was able to find a solution to keep a sound budget while adding raises of 132 employees.
Portales City Manager Doug Redmond said the city’s final budget was approved this week, reinstating the step increases worth $65,000.
Redmond said the change was made possible through a combination of an uptick in revenues and moving around cash from other budgets.
“We had $185,000 more in beginning cash than we had anticipated,” Redmond said. “We had slightly increased revenues in areas such as pool concessions.”
All employees owed a step increase on July 1 were given one retroactively, according to Redmond.
Redmond said the decision to reinstate the pay plans was unanimous by the Council, members of which were “very concerned” about the freeze in the first place.
Councilor Keith Thomas said he was vocal in making sure the freeze did not go through and made sure those concerns were heard in the Finance and Administration Committee.
“I believe if we’re going to have to make adjustments, we need a plan B to that prior to affecting peoples lives like that,” Thomas said. “I personally asked (Redmond) to see if there was another way.”
Thomas said the issue was important to him because he is a former city employee.
“We’re talking about taking milk, eggs and bread off the table and that upsets me because I was a city employee,” Thomas said. “They work hard for our community, they deserve everything we give to them.”
Portales Mayor Sharon King said she was also supportive of finding another way to solve the shortfall in the city’s revenue that didn’t involve freezing the step increases.
“It’s always important to think of your employees first,” King said. “We hated to do it in the first place. (The step increases) will go back to July 1.”