Recommended budget changes revealed

Published 5:44 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recommended changes to the city budget proposal include removing hefty raises for City Council appointees, providing a 2-percent raise for all city employees and appropriating an additional $2 million to the school system.

Preparations already have begun in city hall for the expected overflow crowd at tonight’s 7 p.m. public hearing on the controversial budget proposal. Additional police officers and fire marshal personnel are present in the municipal center, two televisions have been placed in a downstairs hallway for the overflow crowd to watch, and signs have been placed on entryways reminding visitors of the fire code limit in council chambers.

At 5:15 p.m., when the work session ended, about 50 Suffolk Public Schools personnel filed into council chambers to take their seats.

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The recommended changes were presented by Mayor Linda T. Johnson during the work session.

One of the budget topics that has received the most attention has been salary increases between 21 and 33 percent for the four City Council appointees — the city manager, city attorney, city clerk and city assessor.

Johnson recommended removing those increases completely and instead reviewing their salaries upon a satisfactory annual performance evaluation.

She also recommended that the city take an anticipated $2 million of revenue from new construction, which had been earmarked for transportation, and direct it to Suffolk Public Schools on top of the $3 million increase from last year’s funding already recommended.

She also recommended directing staff to implement the compensation plan recommendations, phased in with three parts. Those recommendations ultimately would give about two-thirds of the city’s employees increases of between 3 and 9 percent. The first phase would occur in fiscal year 2013, with the other two phases coming when the money is available.

Johnson further suggested directing staff to amend the budget to phase in changes to the Virginia Retirement System. The General Assembly recently acted to allow local governments, as well as school systems, to phase in the required 5-percent employee retirement contribution. The new 1-percent employee contribution would come with a 1-percent salary increase effective July 1 to help offset the effect on the employee.

In addition, Johnson recommended a 2-percent cost-of-living increase for all city employees, constitutional officers and City Council appointees.

The regular session begins at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Charter channel 8 and online at www.suffolkva.us.