By Andy Ross
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council has changed course yet again on its plan for including employee pay plans in the proposed 2011-12 budget.
On Tuesday night, council members voted 4-2 to reintroduce the built-in series of annual salary increases to the full level for civil-service employees and restore a plan for non civil-service employees that tops out at 2 percent.
The overall impact of the plan amounts to a roughly $500,000 increase in expenditures to next year's general fund budget.
The move, which instigated a number of spin-off counter-arguments, comes just one week after council members signaled they were only willing to reintroduce the pay plan at a reduced, mid-year level totalling roughly $250,000.
When the proposed budget was originally unveiled by Interim City Manager Glenn Morrison, the pay plan was entirely eliminated for 2011-12.
Councilman Juan Rivera, one of those who vocally supported bringing back the full-year plan, said after the meeting that his reasoning centered on ensuring safety.
"The public demands public safety," Rivera said. "As we grow as a city, crime also grows."
Rivera's comments came after a line of questioning to Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin, who responded that he does believe the pay plan has a positive impact on recruitment and retention of officers.
Baldwin told Rivera at one point that the size of his police force in 2011 is essentially the same as in 2008.
In recent days, some members of both the KPD and Killeen Fire Department also have noted that the pay plan has more to do with maintaining salary levels previously agreed upon than offering raises.
Still, not all council members were convinced. As he did last week, Councilman Larry Cole stated his belief that a balanced budget should be a top priority in the current economic climate.
"Borrowing money from Peter to pay Paul is not the way to do it," Cole said.
Councilman Billy Workman joined Cole in voting against the pay plan. Workman said his reasoning had more to do with his objection to the amount of funding traditionally given to the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. Workman said a portion of their allocations could be shifted into the pay plan.
"I think it is time for us to take a hard look at the amount of money we give them each year," he said.
According to figures from the city, the KEDC is budgeted to receive $912,717 next year. The GKCC is projected to receive $643,642. Funding for the organizations is drawn from both the city's general fund and water and sewer fund.
The first draft budget version presented by Morrison last month called for a roughly $490,000 total shortfall between general fund expenditures and revenue.
Numerous changes have been made to figures since that time, one being a proposal to shift $500,000 from other funds and accounts into the general fund.
Factoring in that proposal with the latest version of the pay plan would bring the total shortfall to $516,000, an amount that would be bridged using general fund reserves.
Contact Andy Ross at email@example.com.