Raise the stakes
In the midst of discussing and ultimately approving its annual budget, members of the Selma City Council and Mayor George Evans fell into yet another full-fledged argument, this time involving the idea of providing city employees a raise.
What started out as a matter of simple math and budget cuts, quickly went into accusations of political grandstanding and one city council member calling the mayor a “cry baby.”
“No one more than me wants to be able to provide our employees a pay raise,” Evans told members of the council during a called public hearing on the proposed budget. “But, before I can sit back and give a raise, I have to sit back and make sure that we can sustain it year after year, without having to cut staff.
“I would rather ensure that we have jobs for people before we worry about providing raises.”
Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, who represents Ward 7, brought up the idea during the session, saying the city should look to use money saved from the recent restructuring of the city employee’s annuity plans to fund a pay raise.
“You say we are saving all of this money off a program meant for the employees, but yet you won’t think of looking at a way to having them benefit from it,” Crenshaw said. “I don’t think that is right.”
Evans said the budget was far too tight to think of a pay raise, noting that a 3 percent pay raise would cost the city an additional $259,754 annually. He also provided council members what it would take to provide a 4 percent and 5 percent to employees.
“Let me be clear,” Evans said during the meeting of the heated discussion.
“The council has all the authority here. You control the finances, you control the budget. I simply am asked to protvide a proposed budget.
“If you want to provide the employees a raise, then you find where the money needs to come from and let me know.
“But don’t try to go out there and say I’m not wanting to give employees a pay raise. It’s just politics.”
At that point, Crenshaw, who garnered support for the pay raise from Ward 5 council member Sam Randolph, told the mayor to not act like a “cry baby.”
“This is not about politics,” Crenshaw said. “This is trying to find a way to provide a cost of living raise to our employees.”
The debate continued throughout the evening, including another debate during the called council meeting, where the council, by with a majority vote approved the budget without the pay raise.
But, council president Cecil Williamson did assign the council’s administrative committee the task of further debating the idea of a pay raise and find possible cuts that could be made to the budget to provide a pay raise.
“I think we need to do it. I think we can find the cuts,” Randolph said.