• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

5 percent hike for city workers debated

The Versailles City Council held a work session Tuesday after members of the council's Finance Committee expressed reservations about Mayor Brian Traugott's proposed five percent pay hike for city workers. The Finance Committee is chaired by Council Member Mike Coleman and includes council members Ann Miller and Ken Kerkhoff. After the meeting, Coleman said members weren't necessarily opposed to the five percent raise, but planned to meet again to further discuss it. Traugott's proposed fiscal 2018 budget does not include a pay hike for himself or council members, and a 2.75 percent increase for department heads that backers say was suggested by the department heads themselves. (The fiscal year begins July 1.) Traugott said the city has an excellent workforce that has seen demands increase a great deal in the last two years, and that city employees have met or exceeded all expectations. He said an agreement between the state retirement system and Internal Revenue Service that went into effect Jan. 1 resulted in a half-percent decrease in pay for such workers. He also said health insurance increases in recent years - though not in his proposed budget - have also cut their take-home pay. Traugott said with big-ticket items like a new police station, fire truck and improvements to the Versailles Municipal Building on tap for the near future, next year's proposed raise would be smaller. Coleman said members looked at pay increases dating back to fiscal year 2008 and compared them to the consumer price index (CPI) of those years. This year, he said, the county is proposing a 3.5 percent increase for employees. "Looking at the increases over the years, based on the CPI, plus or minus, it looks like it's up 1.84 (percent) over the years, so you know, that's pretty good ..." Coleman said. Kerkhoff said he was concerned about the cumulative effect of employee pay raises on the city's budget. Miller said her concern was sustainability and that in the private sector, five percent raises are not manageable. Kerkhoff said the city has an amazing group of employees, adding, "We just want to make sure we can afford them." Some of the strongest words in favor of the five percent pay hike came from Fire Chief Brian Wainscott, who mentioned other Central Kentucky fire and police departments that offer better pay. However, he argued against giving different pay increases for employees of the fire and police departments. "A new police station is not worth a nickel if you don't have police to put in it," Wainscott said. No action is taken during work sessions. If members of the Finance Committee voted to amend Traugott's proposed budget by cutting his pay increase and the other three members voted against that amendment, the tie-breaker would be cast by Traugott.

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