Letter to the editor in regard to Americus City Council
Published 2:17 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022
To: Citizens of Americus
First of all, thank you to Councilman Pless, Councilwoman Wilson, Councilman Christmas and Mayor Kinnamon for doing the “right thing” and voting against changing/amending the sign ordinance Councilman Brown proposed in December 5th’s Agenda Setting Meeting. Once special exceptions, going against the recommendation of staff are made, there will certainly be ongoing and consistent issues. The law is an equalizer in that they apply to every person equally. To start giving special considerations to some residents or groups, while withholding it from others is a dangerous practice. To choose to keep the ordinance fair for all people was a wise decision.
However, I have concerns regarding recent bonuses staff have received.
In August of 2022, staff received a salary incentive which cost the city around $300,000. According to the agenda item cover sheet dated August 11, 2022, this was presented as “The Great Resignation.” Being the city was facing a deficit of employees, this incentive was created. The item cover sheet says the funding for the incentive will come from unused salaries due to vacancies. No new revenue or budget amendment was necessary. I am not sure how much each employee received, as it was based on a percentage of their salary. Nevertheless, they received this bonus in August and I am glad they were able to get it!
My major concern is employees received another bonus prior to Thanksgiving, with no mention as to what the funds could have done to benefit the entire city. Every full-time employee received $ 2,374.00 and every part-time employee received $1,000.00. By my estimation, based on full-time employees alone, the cost is $379,840(160 x $2,374.00). Ultimately, about $679,840 has been awarded to employees in the last four months.
Moreover, this decision was not discussed in a public meeting. A “poll” was taken via emails/texts prior to the November 17th meeting. Councilman Brown even mentioned “Thanksgiving bonus” in his closing remarks. However, the intention was never presented to the public until after the employees received the monies. On December 5th, the decision was “ratified.” While not illegal, the employees received the monies without an opportunity for citizens to speak on the matter, as they were made aware after it was given, just prior to the December 5th meeting when the agenda was posted online. It deeply concerns me as a former city council member and a current taxpayer, that no apparent consideration was given to the taxpayers. The council could have easily rolled back the millage rate as we did in 2020 and 2021, while also giving the employees a monetary thank you. Everyone, every taxpayer, would have received an “incentive,” it would not have been limited to only the city employees. Again, we were told these funds came from surplus funds generated by addition tax revenue. These are taxes property owners and buyers of Americus sold products pay in good faith their elected will be fastidious and good stewards while honoring those dollars are made available on the backs of trusting and hard-working taxpayers.
In looking into the 2023 budget, there is a proposed 5% non-merit-based salary increase for every and all city employees. Additionally, another city holiday has been added to the calendar, bringing the total number of holidays to 13, giving most employees 2.5 weeks of paid time off in addition to the vacation time they accrue. Meanwhile, our garbage pick-up is going to increase another 3% on top of the ongoing additional flat fee of $3.50 for post landfill closure. Again, why was the extra money in the budget not used to help taxpayers and applied toward the ongoing landfill expense? Or used to give relief to the taxpayers of Americus? Or used to enhance the city?
While our city employees are certainly worthy of being recognized for their hard work, just as the council of 2020 and 2021 also honored them, why hasn’t the council given more consideration to the fine and hard-working taxpayers of Americus?