Though Collins won’t rule out a line-item veto this year on the budget that was proposed earlier this month, he truly believes it won’t be necessary.
“Given the spirit of cooperation the council and I have experienced recently I feel confident we can come to some kind of terms that will be beneficial to the citizens in the budgetary process,” he said. “I think that any negotiating with the budget and any tweaking can be done before it is put to a vote. I think my issues this year are relatively small issues compared to budgets in previous years, but given the fact that we have a substantial amount of money we’ve put into reserves I’m open to comprosise on my issues.”
Though he wouldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a veto, Collins did address the issues he has with the initial budget proposal he would like to see addressed before it’s put to a vote in April. The city’s fiscal year runs April 1 through March 31.
Among those issues is a proposed 3.4 pay increase for employees that has been referred to as both a “cost-of-living” increase and a performance-based pay increase. Though not opposed to an increase in pay for most employees, Collins is more in favor of a performance-based increase.
“It can’t really be a cost-of-living increase if we’re only going to give it to those who are performing well during the year,” he said. “I want to make a clear determination as to what the city manager’s intent is there, whether it’s a true cost-of-living increase or a small cost-of-living increase with a performance award included on that.
Even though he’s in favor of a performance-based increase, Collins believes the evalutation process needs to be tweaked before he’ll sign of on it because he believes those employees who aren’t performing not only don’t deserve a raise, but don’t deserve to have a job.
“I’ve had a problem with how we hold people accountable for the eight years and three months that I’ve been in office,” he said. “We’ve probably got 80 percent of our employees who give 150 percent every day they come into work and we need to do something to reward those people because they are the ones who keep the city going, but we’ve got probably 20 percent that don’t, and we have to come up with a way to hold people accountable and raise the bar before we give people a bunch of money for how they performed. Instead of giving somebody a poor evaluation, we need to give them a pink slip.”
City Manager Larry Wood explained that the proposed pay increase would be based purely on performance and though the 3.4 percent figure did come from the Social Security Administration’s annual cost-of-living adjustment, it was simply used as an arbitrary number for budgeting purposes. In actuality, some employees will receive a pay increase higher than 3.4 percent and others will receive less if the measure remains in the budget based on their individual performance, Wood said.
“I would like it to be strictly performance-based and I would like to see a performance bonus instead of a pay increase because employees who do good this year and perform well may not be above average next year, but I don’t know if the council would go along with a bonus based on performance,” Collins said. “I’m more for bonuses than I am for an across-the-board pay increase, whether it’s a cost-of-living increase or a performance-based increase. I think you can look for some debate at the next council meeting with that.”
The overall proposed budget is up 14 percent over the current general fund budget, though $500,000 is additional revenue from a transportation enhancement grant the city has acquired for a trail system in the area of the Fullerville Soccer Complex. The remaining increase is mainly comprised of the 3.4 percent pay increase, which Collins plans to address it with the city manager and the council.
“I have a big issue with that and some of it is tied to the cost of the 3.4 percent pay increase and the $500 Christmas bonus for employees,” he said. “I can understand if the growth that our budget had was just to reflect a grant that we have been awarded because we do have to adjust our budget to balance the revenue. However, the city manager projected there would be close to $400,000 going into reserves and if you take those two figures and add them up, if you don’t have that line item to transfer to reserves and you take away the line item to awarding the grant I think the difference in the budget is basically going to come down to the pay increases for employees.”
Collins also plans to request the city manager amend the budget proposal by adding options to lower the city’s proposed revenues so the millage rate can be decreased this summer.
“If we’re going to award $150,000 for the employees to have a pay increase, when’s the last time the taxpayer’s had a tax break and true millage rate rollback?” he said. “If it’s important to give back to the employees, which I think it is, then it’s important to give back to the taxpayers as well. I personally think you can do both.”