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Cole backs keeping longevity pay for employees in budget

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Council Member Sheryl Cole said Monday she believes the city can afford and should pay employees the longevity pay the city’s management team has proposed to cut in an effort to help balance the upcoming budget.


City Manager Marc Ott proposed to save $1.7 million from the General Fund by eliminating this year’s service incentive pay (SIP), a stipend for employees who have worked for the city for five years or more.


Ott has proposed a $2.75 billion balanced budget that includes a menu of $45 million in cutbacks, including the well-publicized steps to freeze the pay of city employees and a delay in pay increases police and emergency medical services employees were contracted to receive this coming year.


Cole, who is both an attorney and a certified public accountant, said she expects the city to have more in revenues than the Budget Office has scheduled to spend in the upcoming year.


“The city may have sales tax revenue in excess of what was budgeted. For example if we budgeted $100,000 in sales tax revenue, even though it may be down from last year when we had $150,000, but if we actually receive $110,000, it would still be up,” she said.


Last week, the city received a sales tax payment of $13.5 million, a decrease of 6.8 percent, but not the nearly 10 percent projected. Chief Financial Officer Leslie Browder explained at the time that the city received “a high, positive audit adjustment of $441,000” from the State of Texas. It is usually around $100,000.


A majority of Council Members have said they do not want to cut employee hours or pay. But in order to balance the budget, Ott has proposed 1- to 3-day furloughs and eliminating the service incentive pay. The furloughs were expected to save the city’s General Fund about $700,000 but that idea was pretty clearly rejected by most Council Members early in the process.


Cole told In Fact Daily, “We appreciate the budget the city manager has put forth and the hard work and thought he has put into it. We will continue to work with him and my colleagues to make sure that during these tough times we have a balanced budget.” She also noted that “we still have not received the certified property appraisals….and there are still other items as we continue to work through the budget analysis with staff.”

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