Citizens are questioning City employee salaries

A handful of people sat in the City Hall chambers last evening to comment on the new budget and question some of the City employee salaries.

The meeting started with Joan Grabowski asking why Police Chief, Diron Hill asked for a $9,000 raise and how this request was presented to the Mayor. Mayor James Hobbs explained “A police department budget was brought to the City Administrator, Teri Murdock, by Chief Hill and Murdock passed the request along to him.”

Grabowski cited that a city employee has never received a one-time $9,000 increase in the history of Italy employee raises and therefore why is this one being considered.

Before waiting for an answer to that question, Grabowski asked why the City Administrator was still receiving $800 per month in a one year contact, to attend EDC meetings, because the contract had not been revisited by the City Council since last year. Grabowski added, “When there are no meetings does the City Administrator still get paid?” Murdock defended her position by explaining that her bring home pay for EDC compensation is only around $400 after all applicable deductions and EDC supplies are taken out.

Elmerine Bell, an EDC committee member, interjected and confirmed the EDC had revisited their budget and approved the $9,600 annual payment to the City for services supplied to the EDC. Murdock said she is not only paid for attending the meetings, but is compensated for balancing bank statements and performing other accounting duties for the EDC.

Grabowski brought up the fact the dump truck died the other night and there was nothing in the budget for Dean Carrell’s use of his personal vehicle or the tens of thousands of dollars needed for the water system last year. Grabowski told the city they “need to think ahead.”

Chief Hill asked if he could please answer Grabowski’s first question about his salary. He stood and read the policy from section 7.04 Basis for Salary Reviews and Increases. The policy states, the City will review the salaries of all city employees at least annually and make any necessary adjustments. Hill reminded the council and audience he has declined a pay increase the past two years in order that his staff get raises to get them to a level of pay comparable to other police departments.

Hill said there is still a lot of work to do, with the other officers salaries, and went on to say he felt like he should be compensated in line with other department heads with the city of Italy. Hill said he just learned this year the Director of Public Works, Dean Carrell makes $60,000 per year who is a department head, therefore he should receive equal pay.

Hill told Grabowski the question she should be asking is “Why is the Public Works Director making $60,000 per year.” Hill said he is at the will of the City Council to increase his pay. Grabowski said that was HIS decision to not accept a pay increase. She said, “There is no written policy that states a department head should be paid $60,000 per year”.

Steve Farmer stood up and stated he felt Chief Hill is entitled to the increase. Farmer said he thinks a lot of people are looking at the fact that Chief Hill drives a city vehicle home every day which costs the City around $5,000 per year. Farmer went on to say, “If the City takes the car out of the equation the Chief should get an increase to $65,000 per year”. Hill agreed. Farmer then suggested the City cut the budget elsewhere such as the attorney the City pays $20,000 per year, who lives in McKinney. Farmer suggested the City hire an attorney who lives in Ellis County.

Elmerine Bell pointed out the salaries budgeted for City Administration ONLY is $152,278. Bell asked how many employees fall under that category. Murdock answered “Four people fall under that category including the Mayor.” Two of those employees pay totals $100,000 not including the Mayor. Bell felt that $100,000 was too much to pay a couple of administration employees in a town the size of Italy.

Murdock reminded everyone about the additional sales tax money from Family Dollar, Taco Bell and a new motorcycle shop going in, have not been calculated as of yet and therefore will be recognized as future income. Murdock said we have cleared up several old warrants from 2004 to 2006 which have brought in extra income.

It was discussed to advertise the use of the City Community Center. The City has a few groups that use the community center on a regular basis, but the rental of the center is very slow right now.

Albert Garcia spoke up and said his family has it rented for Thanksgiving. Garcia voiced how beautiful the facility is, and the City should conduct open houses to promote its use. Garcia added how smooth the backyard is and if the City added some swings or a barbeque grill it would be even more appealing for rental.

Another item in question on the budget was the City cleanup. Chief Hill stated, “We have a lot of code enforcement around the City, and when we ask someone to clean up their yard the first thing out of the citizens mouth is, ‘we don’t have anywhere to take it’.” Hill said he is working on some options to have a place to take tires, limbs, etc. so the citizens will have a place to dump their trash from cleanup. Hill said he spoke to Murdock about organizing a City cleanup day in October. They wish to get everybody involved in an effort to cleanup Italy.

The council members made a few comments about the budget. Councilman Utley agreed Chief Hill deserves the rate increase and thinks Hill’s department is doing a great job. Councilman Jackson said a contingency is included in the City budget to cover catastrophes such as what happened in the city of West.

After the public hearing was closed and the regular session was opened the council approved all items on the agenda.