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City Residents Respond To Pay Hike Proposal

By Staff | Jan 29, 2009

Emmetsburg residents Lois Jurries and Norlyn Stowell addressed members of Emmetsburg City Council on the proposed wage increase for city employees. Both were in favor of a wage freeze.

Jurries expressed concerns about the economy and places cutting back on employees. She told the council that the state has frozen employee wages and noted that each state employee will be taking one day off per month without pay.

“The county did a good job,” she stated. She agreed with the Board of Supervisors’ decision to freeze wages for officers and 1/5% increase for other county offices.

“The city should be looking at a wage freeze,” Jurries stated. She also noted that senior citizens will be affected, citing low interest rates on investments.

Stowell also commended the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors for their actions, and noted the number of people who were laid off work on Monday.

He agreed with Jurries that people are not receiving their investments funds and it may take time before things turn around. Stowell encouraged the city to put a freeze on salary increases until the economy changes, noting that it will give the city a better future if the economy continues to get worse.

“I don’t know if everybody is in agreement,” Mayor John Schad said. He then asked people to show agreement by raising their hands. Several residents in the audience agreed.

“We’re dealing more with the feelings of the community than running out of money if we went with a 3.5% increase,” Schad said. “How does the council feel?”

“I don’t think we need to take any more straw polls until we see a budget,” said Councilman Pat Degen.

Campbell explained that the proposed 3.5% is a “highest increase scenario. Then we can back it down.”

He continued by explaining that the proposed increase would show the maximum amount that the budget would be affected and the council could see if the budget could withstand that increase.

“We can always work down from that,” he said.

City Administrator John Bird interjected, “Having money in the bank does not balance the budget.”

Bird explained that the city’s finance director needed one factor to impute into the budget. That figure can be changed when the budget is complete.

“We also have to remember the union,” said Councilman Steve Finer. That is not negotiable and it will be a 3.5% increase.

“I don’t think there’s a councilman here that isn’t will ing to consider a change,” added Degen.

Mayor Schad asked City Attorney Brian Thul if there is anything else the city can do to inform the public. Thul responded, saying that the council has done an extensive job getting the word out. Until the budget numbers are received, a final decision cannot be made.

Councilman Kori Gramowski pointed out that the Social Security Administration approved a 5.8% cost of living wage increase which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Mayor Schad told the residents attending the City Council meeting that the proposed wage increase is not etched in stone. He encouraged the residents to attend the upcoming public hearing on the city’s budget.