Council Raises Wages, Gives Money To Streets

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Nelson Beck, an 18-year veteran of the Parks Department, addressed the Payson Town Council Thursday evening among a room full of his town-employed peers -- police officers, firefighters, and street and parks workers.

He empathized with the council's need to clip fiduciary corners, but also said he couldn't ignore the impact a proposed salary cap would have on his employees.

"In light of numerous years of being inhibited from getting merit increases, and with morale being as low as it is, it's a kick in the belly," Nelson said.

As he turned to sit down, the audience applauded.

The "cap" Beck spoke of was a decision by the council to bring town salaries up to a competitive market level, unless the raise is more than $8,000.

The decision was made during a 3 p.m. Thursday budget planning meeting for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The council voted six to one to bring 80 percent of town positions up to or near market wages in the coming fiscal year.

"The rank-and-file employees got taken care of," said Vice Mayor Tim Fruth.

Any town employee who makes less than $70,000 a year, and who serves in an undervalued position, will be brought up to the midpoint pay range for that job.

If that raise is more than $8,000, the council voted against giving that employee the maximum increase, said Town Manager Fred Carpenter.

And in some cases, an $8,000 wage increase still won't bring that position to its market value. New hires -- until the probationary period is over -- and those making salaries making more than $70,000 are exempt.

Albert Hunt, streets supervisor, said he wanted the council to live up to its previous motion, voted on in June, which would give town employees in undervalued positions a full-market increase.

He said he was disappointed with the council's Thursday evening amended decision.

"It's just kind of blown up in our faces," Hunt added.

To fill three vacant dispatcher positions, the council agreed to upgrade the starting salary to approximately $34,000, a 12.5-percent increase while giving police officers a 10 percent raise and a 7 percent wage increase to the department's six sergeants.

The council moved forward to other budget line items, voting to reallocate funds from lower-priority projects, such as the fire station renovation, to street improvements.

Six to one, the council agreed to siphon $150,000 away from the fire station improvement project, to streets.

Mud Springs Road received the largest allocation of funding -- $800,000. With that money, the town will nearly complete the project that ends at Granite Dells Road.

The council added $71,000 to an infrastructure overhaul at St. Philip and Bonita streets.

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