Kayla Fleming/For the Times The Red Boiling Springs City Council discussed the 2019-2020 city budget at its meeting last Thursday evening.

Kayla Fleming/For the Times

The Red Boiling Springs City Council discussed the 2019-2020 city budget at its meeting last Thursday evening.

Red Boiling Springs' newly-elected city mayor, Kenneth Hollis, informed Red Boiling Springs Chief of Police Kevin Woodard at last Thursday night's city council meeting that the department would not be getting raises that had previously been approved by the council.

Woodard told the council that the pay scale passed last May included raises for the next six years and that those raises "did not have to go before the council because it was already in there … they had already pre-approved it." Woodard also told the council that the pay scale will go into effect on July 1 of this year.

"I don't see that the money is in there for it," Hollis said. "I'm not for any raises right now until we can get the money straightened out."

Woodard continued that it was "hard to justify" some department employees working at night and by themselves as they only currently made $16.25 an hour.

"With all the stuff they have to deal with, and they're just making $16.25 with no hope (of a raise) … and some of them have been working a year and a half to get to their raise," Woodard said.

Hollis said that frequent overtime had "killed the budget." Hollis also said the police department currently had the most over time with more than 170 hours since January. Woodard told the council that they "would have to do something before July 1, because that is when it automatically goes into effect."

Hollis told Woodard that more money would have to come in, such as from increased ticketing.

"We're more worried about people getting their checks every week than we are worried about a raise," Hollis said. "There's been way too many raises so far."

Woodard told the council that the department had been without an officer for nearly four months and that forced him to work 12-hour shifts.

"With callouts and having to work extra, we had to do it," Woodard said. "We had to get it covered."

Police officer Mark Bartley added, "In the last two and a half years, you've had a 100-percent turnover rate in your police department. How can you, then again, tell us a year ago, here is your incentive to stay … here is your incentive to (join the department) … and now tell us, 'no, it's not there.' You've lost five officers in two and a half years. That's why Kevin had to work for a month and a half."

Hollis responded that previous city government officials should have been told "not to throw the money out the door, because that's where a lot of the money has went that we don't have now…"

Woodard told the council that he felt that the department was getting punished for something that wasn't their fault.

Bartley continued that he felt that all of the budget cuts coming from employees' benefits and pay rather than other areas of the budget. Hollis stated that they were cutting everything.

Bartley questioned if the council and the mayor were also receiving cuts.

"We don't have anything to be cut on," council member Cynthia Smalling said.

Hollis tabled the discussion.

The council approved extending advertisement of a prisoner overseer for the department.

Council member Lee Butram told the council that cutting raises could potentially cause good employees to leave.

"I don't know where our budget people went wrong before, but we voted that in knowing the money was there," Butram. "So, we need to find out where that went."

Hollis told Butram that he has been questioning that

"No one has been able to tell me," Hoollis said. "It's just not there. The money is not there."

Butram added, "It didn't just not be there though. Somebody's got it."

Butram reiterated that employees would leave the department if they were not given the raises they had been promised.

The council also discussed placing city clerks on salary pay. A pay scale for city office workers was instituted in April by the former mayor, Joel Coe. The pay scale grandfathered in current employees as being in their fourth year.

The council had previously approved the pay scale, with Smalling voting against it.

Hollis explained to the council that workers would receive a weekly salary for 40 hours of work and would still receive the same weekly pay even when using allotted sick days and vacation days.

The council also discussed the issue of holiday pay. Hollis told the council that employees would not receive holiday pay while on salary as that would be included in the salary.

"It's in the charter," city water supervisor Chad Owens said. "It doesn't specify salary or non-salary. It says every employee is entitled to holiday pay."

Hollis said that employees would be paid anyway for 40 hours even if one of those days were holidays, and, if they are on salary, they will not "be getting extra money."

Hollis questioned whether Owens received holiday pay. Owens said that he did.

"It's been that way ever since I've been (employed) here, even when there were five or six of us on salary," Owens said.

Council members questioned whether that meant that employees received an extra paid day, and Owens confirmed that he did. Newly-appointed City Attorney Brandon Bellar told the council that personnel policy referred to all employees but did not give a definition of what the term employee covered and if people on salary would still be allotted holiday pay under this policy.

"I can't make a distinction on this just based on the way this is written," Bellar said.

Hollis stated that not providing holiday pay and placing employees on salary would eliminate overtime work and pay. This issue, as well as potentially placing Woodard on salary, as well, was also tabled until the next regular meeting to allow Bellar to further study the city's personnel policy.

The council did vote to cancel safety days and floating holidays. Employees who have not taken their safety day or floating holiday will be able to take them during this calendar year, but those days will not be offered after this year. Butram and council member Michael Rich voted no, but the amendment passed by a 4-2 vote.

The council also discussed the city employee's Blackhawk accounts, which are offered to employees to cover minor medical expenses. The city currently deposits $100 monthly into each employees' account.

"That was set up years ago to put money in (employees') account every month for their insurance," Hollis said. "Since then, they've got all these other benefits that go along with it, so it amounts up to a bunch of money."

Council member George McCrary said that city employees do not "have a true (health savings) account. If it was the employee would be putting the money in it themselves … this is a way to help your employees with minor medical expenses."

McCrary informed the council that the city did not truly have a medical insurance program, but rather a catastrophic program.

"You've got to spend $3,600 before, and it's probably going to go up even more," McCrary said.

McCrary also informed the council that the city currently spends $112,000 a year on insurance for employees.

The council also discussed abuse of the Blackhawk system, in which some employees were using the money in these accounts for needs other than medical expenses. Council members questioned if receipts for medical expenses could be presented and employees could be reimbursed.

Employees present at the meeting explained that the funds are placed on a debit-type card each month for their use when needed.

"That's something else that we're paying for," Hollis said. "We're paying all this other stuff, retirement and all that is extra stuff that's come about. We're going to have to do some cost-cutting somewhere, and the Blackhawk account is one of them we're going to have to cut. I know health insurance is high. It's high for everybody. If you have to buy it, you have to do what you can do."

Cutting the Black Hawk accounts would save the city $19,200.

Butram told the council that he believed the accounts should be left alone, and McCrary stated that he was in favor of keeping the accounts but wanted to implement a system to ensure employees were not abusing the accounts.

Smalling motioned to remove the accounts and Council member Linda Carver seconded the motion, each voted in favor of removal. All of the other council members voted no, so the motion failed.

After hearing from employees, the council decided to contact the provider of the accounts to see if non-medical purchases could be blocked during the transaction.

The council also discussed taking a loan in order to pay for street improvements. The council had previously discussed including the city's bids along with the county when they renegotiate paving contracts. However, the company the county would be using told the city that they had been advised by their legal department to not work for both the county and the city under the same contract.

McCrary, who had spoken with the county about the arrangement, told the council that he believed they would still be able to get a similar bid price, but "it would have to be through our own bid process."

McCrary told the council that the city's gas tax would likely cover maintenance, on the streets, including street lights. Hollis said that he believed that the city's liquor tax, which garners around $30,000, could go toward the debt on a loan.

Hollis estimates that $200,000 will be needed to fix some of the worst roads in the city. The council decided it will discuss this further at the July meeting after the city's engineer looks at the problem areas and comes up with an estimate.

Also at this meeting, the council elected a vice mayor for the city.

"They've generally done it, whoever was on the ballot, the highest vote getter," Hollis said.

Carver received the highest votes in the last city elections and was unanimously approved by the council.

The council also voted to rezone property on East Main Street from residential to commercial.

In addition, the council decided to have the parks in the city inspected and have plans created to maintain and update the playground equipment.

The council decided to halt sells of plots at Whitley Cemetery until a survey could be conducted of the cemetery due to mislabeled plot maps, which has caused some deceased to be buried in plots others had previously paid for, rather than the spots they or their families had purchased.

The council also heard the proposed urban growth boundary developed by the city's planning commission. Rita Watson presented the plan to the council.

"(The urban growth boundary) is mandated by the state," Watson said. "You have to have one. It has nothing to do with annexation."

She compared the boundary to a fence, which would prevent other cities from developing land within the boundary so that Red Boiling Springs would have room to grow should it need to. "The state says every municipality must develop a plan," Watson said.

A previous plan was developed in 2012 but was tabled. The last plan instituted in the city was drafted in 1999 and only covered area near the city limits.

Watson told the council that both the city of Red Boiling Springs and the city of Lafayette, as well as Macon County, will have to agree on both cities' urban growth boundary. The newly-developed boundary extends to the county line in the east and to the Jimtown/Kirbytown Road area in the west.

"This gives us a nice healthy area around the city," Watson said.

She also emphasized that this plan was just a starting point and would likely see changes, but the council must approve the planning commission's current draft before any potential changes could be made.

The council also discussed the city's budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, but ultimately decided to table the budget due to changes made. A special called meeting will be held on June 18 at 6 p.m. to further discuss and approve the city's budget.

The council also had to table an ordinance adjusting the rate of taxation in the city of Red Boiling Springs, which will also be discussed at the June 18 meeting.