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Westminster mayor, council find way to raise salaries, fund new positions

Westminster’s common council and mayor workshopped how to fund positions while also raising city employee salaries.

The group was faced with fulfilling position requests while also finding ways to adjust its pay structure. They agreed during a Monday budget work session to use federal funds and funds from a parking study to do both.

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The council received requests to fund three new positions: a fulltime help desk attendant, which would cost $82,400 including benefits, and two equipment operators that would cost $71,000 each.

A firm the city hired to recommend adjustments to its pay structure, Evergreen Solutions, suggested positions be reclassified and to adjustment its pay structure by 3%, which would increase salaries of 92 employees. The firm gave three options on how to do that. However, those options would affect hiring new people.

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Barbara Matthews, the city administrator, said option one is the most aggressive and would move employees to the midpoint pay raise. It would cost nearly $664,000, but it would not allow for new positions to be added. Option two would be the “middle of the road” and allow for the help desk attendant. It would cost about $557,000. Option three would be the least aggressive in moving employees to a midpoint range. It would cost just over $501,000, but it would allow for one equipment operator and the help desk assistant. None would allow for all three positions. Matthews recommended option one or two.

Mayor Joe Dominick suggested relying on an expected federal grant to fund budget items the grant allows and freeing up operating budget money to help with salaries and also fund all three positions.

The city is anticipating $15.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by the United States Congress under the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Half the money is expected in about a month and the rest 30 days later.

Council President Gregory Pecoraro noted if they use the mayor’s suggestion, they could end up using reserved funds to balance the budget if they do not receive the federal money by the time the budget needs to be passed.

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Matthews said it’s best to make decisions based on the information they have, and the full spending guidance for the federal money has not been released yet. She added option two is the “reasonable approach.” Lydia Colston, the city’s director of finance, agreed.

“I’m hesitant to make decisions based on what we believe can happen,” Colston said.

Dominick said budget planning is based on educated guesses and comes with a certain level of risk.

“This is another one, and I think it’s a safe bet,” he added.

Council member Tony Chiavacci agreed and also suggested option one. He said later in an interview that the city has enough money in its budgets to fulfil option one. And if by some reason the federal funding does not come through, the new positions would not be funded.

Council member Ben Yingling later noted there was $200,000 allocated for Wakefield Valley Park improvements though that project expects to have grant money. He said if they used those funds, they could pick option two and fund the help desk and one equipment operator position.

However, fellow council member Ann Gilbert suggested using the $190,000 that was assigned to fund a parking study they are “most likely not going to be using.”

“If we have $190,000 we could fund all three,” the mayor said about the positions.

“That would make me very happy,” council member Kevin Dayhoff said.

Chiavacci said in an interview the parking study could be funded later.

The city’s fiscal 2022 budget totals $62 million in revenue and $60.8 million in expenditures, which includes $30.6 million in the sewer fund, $17.1 million in the general fund, $6.5 million in the water fund, $5.2 million in the capital fund and $1.4 million in the fiber fund.

The budget allows for no change in property taxes and the revenue of Ting is insufficient to cover its debt service.

No comments were made during the first public hearing for the budget on Monday. The next public hearing is April 26, the same day as the public work session. The budget is expected to be adopted May 10.

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