By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
All those years of high school foreign language classes could finally pay off.
The Killeen City Council approved two long-awaited bilingual incentive pay ordinances for police and non-uniform service employees on Tuesday.
Because the city already pays employees for bilingual interpretation and there was a need for additional projects in the proposed budget, the council chose not to go forward with the proposal when the budget was adopted two years ago.
Director of Community Services Debbie Maynor said the ordinance will allow the city manager to identify individuals who can provide incentives for individuals who speak additional languages. But it will only apply to individuals who can provide a need with their language skills.
Spanish and Korean will be among the languages that will provide incentives because there is a need for those, Maynor said.
Councilman Scott Cosper clarified the ordinance by making sure the language skill incentives will be only a tool to hire better qualified candidates and won't be a prerequisite for hiring.
Councilman Juan Rivera asked what took so long to get this going, since a proposed citywide bilingual incentive pay program was reintroduced in November 2006 after it had been abandoned some months earlier.
The approval of the policy was made effective Oct. 1, but the council needed to get a single company to provide certification for all possible languages rather than having the city contract with multiple agencies.
Because of the city's diversity, officials had asked the council to consider a $61,000 bilingual incentive pay program in the proposed FY 2006-07 budget to provide better services to residents whose primary language is not English.
Current estimates indicate that the cost to the city will not exceed $54,000.
City Manager Connie Green gave a short presentation on what the council should expect come budget time. Green said early projections indicate there will be no increase in the tax rate, despite dramatic increases in fuel costs for the city.
That topic is of great concern to city staff and was discussed during a council workshop June 17.
Fuel expenditures have increased by 60 percent in the past four years, and that number is projected to jump again in 2008-09, and at a higher rate. In 2004-05, the city paid an average of $1.91 per gallon of diesel fuel, compared to $3.15 in 2008.
While the city is exempt from many of the taxes placed on gas prices, that figure is still only an average through the entire fiscal year, as the costs have increased 94 percent since October 2004.
Green said the city will hold regular workshops to discuss the budget starting Tuesday at 4 p.m. It set a date of Aug. 12 to conduct a public hearing to discuss the budget.
The council also approved an extension of the youth curfew ordinance after no one chose to speak for or against the continuation of the ordinance at consecutive public hearings.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.