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Airport head to get 10% pay hike; city workers 3%

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood officials approved a 3-percent across-the-board pay raise for city employees upon first reading of the 2011-12 budget last month.

The proposed increase in pay comes without an increase in the city’s property-tax rate of 75 cents per $100 valuation.

Also up for a raise — one of 10 percent — is Rockwood Municipal Airport manager Danny Collins. A contractor with the city, the raise will up his take-home pay to $35,000 a year.

“I don’t like it, not when the city employees are getting 3 percent,” Councilman Ray Collett said.

Collins receives health insurance but no pension through the city. He also pays his own FICA toward Social Security and Medicare benefits.

City recorder Jim Hines said changes include going from $5,000 to $8,000 for public relations and fall festival and from $2,000 to $5,000 for Rockwood Industrial Development.

Pay raises are one of the few budget differences from the current year.

A lump sum of $72,000 was put in the budget. No new positions were added.

“What we’re going to recommend is a 3 percent across the board raise. I think the gas, water and sewer board is going to do the same thing,” Mayor James Watts said.

Councilman Dudley Evans said he didn’t see how the board could do it without a rate increase.

Councilman Bill Thompson supported finding a way to someday do more for all department heads.

Money for a business recruiter was also discussed with officials supporting using the money for a project if a recruiter will not be hired this year.

“There is $55,000 sitting there because we don’t have one,” said Vice Mayor Peggy Evans.

“It could be used to build the fishing piers, to build my T-hangers,” she added.

Collett has been discussing building a pier to Tom Fuller Park and a pavilion at Mike “Brillo” Miller Park. Peggy Evans has raised funds to match a grant to build T-hangers at Rockwood Municipal Airport but is working to get more monies for more buildings.

Collett said he doesn’t think residents would mind a small tax increase in the future if they saw something, such as a pavilion, brought about from it.

He added he thinks the city could do it without an increase, however.

Watts said he would like to someday fill the recruiter position. Past applicants, he added, were not good selections for the position that was once filled by the late Beverly Stroh.

Hines said the city needs to find someone who can be a recruiter and grant administrator.

He said the problem is that people interested in writing grants are not prepared for administering received grants.

“I’m not looking for just a body to put in there,” Watts added.

Dudley Evans suggested instead giving more money to The Roane Alliance.

Peggy Evans, however, said she isn’t impressed with The Roane Alliance, saying Rockwood officials are the ones who do most of the work to get the new retail in the area.

Disagreements over the airport continued, with Collett saying monies could be better spent on projects that helped more people.

Dudley Evans, who has long been doubtful of the airport’s potential, said he would never be against an airport that makes money and that he may eat crow someday if it does indeed become successful.

“I hope you do,” Peggy Evans countered good-naturedly.

The airport’s staunchest supporter, Peggy Evans has raised and convinced officials to use money from surplus equipment sales to get $35,000, the match for a $350,000 grant to build T-hangers to rent at the airport.

The proposed budget includes increases for $11,300 in rent of those T-hangers, presuming they would be built and could be rented for at least six months.

“It will be the only thing in the city that pays for itself, and it can,” Peggy Evans said.

Other areas of the budget include increasing the sales tax revenue by $100,000, something Hines said can be risky because it’s unclear whether the money will be new revenue or shifted around from other retailers.

Hines also said he adjusted the state shared tax because of the city’s lower population. Because Rockwood is down 320 people he decreased the amount the city would get by $35,000.

Hines also estimated that the rebidding of health insurance, combining city and Rockwood Water, Sewer and Gas employees, would be a $75,000 increase.

Hines also budgeted that debt service would be reduced from $327,351 to $280,298 per year, with total outstanding debt as of June 30, 2012, at $2.27 million.

The budget is balanced with $6.4 million in revenue and expenditures.