Hammond’s proposed budget calls for employee pay hikes

Mayor Mayson Foster’s proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year calls for raising the pay of city employees even though their wage hikes once again will not reflect national cost-of-living index gains.

The council unanimously approved an ordinance during its meeting Tuesday that authorizes the waiver of an existing ordinance that requires the city to give its employees raises based on the cost-of-living index.

Instead, the ordinance awards a 2 percent salary increase to employees with one to 20 years of service and a 1 percent raise to employees who have worked for the city for 21 to 30 years or who are paid $75,000 or more per year.

The mayor and council have opted to give the lower rate of raises for the past several years.

This prompted Councilman Lemar Marshall to ask if the council could simply revise the ordinances and remove the requirement of an annual cost-of-living raise. Foster agreed with Marshall, saying the council should look into the matter once this year’s budgeting process is complete.

The council unanimously agreed to take up Foster’s proposed 2013-14 budget. The council will meet later to review the mayor’s proposal and will make any changes before the budget is submitted for final approval at the council meeting on June 18.

Foster’s budget anticipates revenues of about $35.8 million during the coming fiscal year starting July 1. Much of these funds are derived from the city’s sales taxes and ad valorem taxes.

However, the budget also anticipates additional funds from such sources as licenses and permits, charges and fees, fines and forfeits and other minor sources of revenue.

The proposed budget’s largest spending areas include about $8 million for Police Department operations, $6 million for the Fire Department and about $3 million for public works.

Other matters coming before the council included:

PARK HOURS: The council unanimously agreed to take up a proposed ordinance setting the hours of city park operations from dawn to dusk.

Council President Jason Hood asked for the action because constituents have complained that people are using the parks until late at night. The council will hold a public hearing on the matter at June 4 meeting.

CLEANEST CITY: Foster announced that Hammond has won for the seventh consecutive year the title of Louisiana’s Cleanest City among cities with populations from 10,000 to 25,000.

The contest is sponsored annually by the Louisiana Garden Club Federation. Foster thanked the Hammond Garden Club, the Keep Hammond Beautiful Committee and city employees for the effort that helped Hammond retain its cleanest-city title.