All Columbus city employees, including elected officials, will receive a 3-percent cost of living raise in 2013.
The Columbus City Council approved the raises a second and final time during Tuesday’s meeting, and also gave preliminary approval of a 2013 budget that reflects nearly a $2.4 million drop in expenditures.
Mayor Kristen Brown said she was voting for the increase in the mayor’s salary only so other department head positions wouldn’t be capped in the future by what the mayor makes. She also said she would donate the increase to the city’s General Fund.
Councilman Aaron Hankins again voted against the salary increases, and also against the 2013 budget, saying that City Council members were just part-time employees and shouldn’t be eligible for cost-of-living raises. He also said the city shouldn’t be using the maximum tax levy and said the salaries of some department heads are too high.
The 2013 budget proposes expenditures of $46,290,239, down from this year’s budget’s expenditures of $48,657,380. Next year’s budget also reflects a remaining balance of $841,772 compared to a $2.6 million budget overrun this year.
The raises were the center of debate among City Council members and Brown. She sought a 2.5-percent raise for all city employees plus an additional $5,000 for seven city positions, six of which are department heads.
Council members balked at the additional pay for the seven positions, saying it was unfair that all department heads could not be considered for the additional pay, and that no standards were in place to determine if the employees actually merited bonuses.
Brown said some key city jobs are underpaid compared to other communities, and she wants to retain talented employees whose skills are in demand. The $5,000 increase, which she called merit pay, was an effort to make Columbus more competitive with other communities.
Also Tuesday, the Council:
n Approved David Allmon’s appointment as Columbus’ newest fire chief.
Allmon replaces Joel Thacker, who submitted his letter of resignation Aug. 30. Thacker’s last day as chief was Monday.
Thacker was one of the hallmark hires for Brown, in her first year as mayor. Thacker was hired in mid-March and started May 22.
Brown hired Thacker, a battalion chief with the White River Township Fire Department in Johnson County, because of his demonstrated ability to broaden the scope of firefighting services to include additional rescue and emergency medical services. She believed he brought in best practices from outside the Columbus Fire Department.
Allmon is a retired 29-year veteran of the Columbus Fire Department and is the past president of the local firefighters union. He resigned as union president Sept. 11.
Allmon needed governmental approval as chief because a state statute says that fire chiefs must have five continuous years of service with the department, unless the administration is given a waiver from the City Council. Allmon retired from the fire department in 2010.
He will be assisted by longtime Columbus firefighter and former state fire marshal Roger Johnson, who will serve as Allmon’s emergency management consultant.
n Approved an economic revitalization area in Woodside Northwest Park, on International Drive, and a tax abatement for the development of a $15 million plant for a supply chain company.
The Phoenix Group would create 50 jobs averaging $30,000 at the plant, where some assembly for clients would occur.
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