MC Council raises its salaries for next term

By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — The City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that will raise the salaries of both the next mayor and council who will serve a four-year term beginning in 2013.

According to the ordinance, the mayor’s salary will be increased from $54,000 to $63,000 per year, while the council’s salary will be increased from $7,200 to $12,000 annually.

The mayor’s salary has not been changed since December 2003, while the council’s salary has not been changed since the city’s Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1987.

If passed during the December council meeting, the ordinance would not be effective until January 2013 when the terms of the new mayor and council begin.

As per city ordinance, the salaries must be adopted no later than the second to last year of the current mayor and council’s terms, meaning this is the last year they can adopt them, because the next mayor and council will be elected in November 2012.

Because he has served two consecutive terms, Mayor Tim Matte must sit out one election cycle, in accordance with the city’s Home Rule Charter, which limits mayors to no more than two consecutive, four-year terms of service at a time.

Council members are not term-limited.

Before proposing the salary to the council, Matte said the salaries of the mayors and councils of other, primarily “mid-size” cities, were examined to see what they were paying their employees.

While the city has had an annual 2 percent salary increase for its employees, the mayor’s and council’s salaries have been exempt from those increases.

In determining those increases, Matte said a 2 percent increase was included for the years since the last raises.

“It doesn’t come out exactly to those numbers (presented to the council) but it comes out very, very close,” Matte said.

Councilman Larry Bergeron noted that the list of salaries for other cities were all higher than what Morgan City currently was paying its employees.

Fellow councilman Luke Manfre said that consideration of salary increases should be looked at during every council’s term.

In other financial matters, the council adopted its 2012 fiscal year budget and amended the original introduction to include $17,400 in the utility budget, specifically for overtime.

The amendment was made because the calculations for water, sewer and gas overtime the city had included in its 2012 budget was the original amount it had included when it adopted its 2011 budget.

However, during the 2011 fiscal year, the city has exceeded its budgeted amount of overtime in these areas because of water breaks.

“Quite frankly, we need to recognize that you have more overtime,” he said.

Next year’s spending plan also was amended to include a future software purchase for the city, but there is no upfront cost to the city that is expected to be incurred in 2012.

The council also tabled passage of an ordinance amending its 2011 budget until the December meeting, so it could have more accurate numbers to reflect actual revenues and expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year.

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved an ordinance related to its new 0.3 percent sales tax, approved by voters Saturday, which Matte said will update wording for the collection of these taxes.

The council also expanded its agenda to apply for the state Bond Commission to issue up to $4 million in bonds for this 0.3 percent tax.

He said city has consulted local banks for rates for issuing the bonds. By using a bank, Matte said the city wouldn’t have to worry about costs for insurance and meeting a bond rating.

The mayor said he expects to have the monies by mid-February and to issue the bonds at the same time.

In the meantime, he said the city will be doing behind-the-scenes engineering work so that when the funds are available, hopefully the city can begin its work soon thereafter.

He expects to begin actual road work in the first quarter of 2012.

Also, the city’s monthly financial statements include favorable variances of $644,600 and $36,300, respectively, in the city’s General and Ancillary, and Sanitation and Sewer accounts during October as well as an unfavorable variance of $122,300 in the Utility Fund for the same period.

The General and Ancillary Fund variance is up from about a $487,000 balance a month ago, city Finance Director Deborah Garber said.

Also, Garber noted in the Utility Fund that the unfavorable variance for October is down from a $255,000 unfavorable variance in September.

“So each month it’s getting lower and lower,” Garber said, adding that the gap between fuel costs and revenues, especially, is shrinking.

According to the expenditures, the actual revenues are under budget in the Utility Fund by about $1.03 million, while the operational expenses also were under budget by about $907,000.

While Matte said the city was behind its budgeted amounts in revenues in the city’s utility department all year, “by the end of the year, we certainly may come back to the budgeted amount. Certainly it’s not uncommon. You would have an expectation if your revenues were less, your costs would be less, and that’s starting to play out.”

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