The Jonesboro City Council is taking its time in considering a proposal that would call for a six percent pay raise for all elected officials. Council members that spoke about the ordinance last night said they were concerned about how raises that were approved last year might affect future budgets. The council approved pay raises for all city workers last year, which took three-point-four million dollars out of reserves. Alderman Joe Hafner is the chairman of the finance committee on the city council. He says he is concerned about how that drop in reserves as well as a pay raise for elected officials will affect the budget.
“I think it is important to add here that we added two-million-dollars in projects to our budget this year,” says Hafner. “While some items may have left over reserves, we have added two-million-dollars that we now have to find the money to pay for.”
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin says the raises that were given last year means that three-point-four million dollars will now come from reserves every year, which means the city is going to have to start looking for ways to make up that dip in reserves.
“That is going to be very hard to cover when you have not given the revenue to offset the three-point-four-million dollars that will be coming out of reserves every year,” says Perrin. “When you pull down the reserves to pay for capital improvements, you will not have any more room to wiggle with and you will have to make a decision about what to do next to maintain the way the city has been operating.”
Perrin tells how long the city may have before it needs to start looking for alternative revenues, including the possibility of a sales tax to pay for the salaries.
“If you want to keep operating the city as it is with the salaries we are paying, then you have to look at how to get extra revenue. Does that mean that you have to freeze hiring, have layoffs, or go to the polls soon for a sales tax issue to pay for this? I predict that if something isn’t done, you will have to ask citizens to vote on a sales tax in three years,” says Perrin.
Alderman Mitch Johson was chairman of the finance committee last year and pushed for all city workers to get raises, something he said last night he was proud of.
“I may take some criticism on those but I am glad for what we did,” says Johnson. “I wanted to make sure that we properly compensated those people for what they do to make Jonesboro great. I didn’t take this job for the pay and I don’t care about getting a raise.”
Alderman David McClain says he doesn’t think now is a good time to look at raises for elected officials.
“It is not the time to think about this when we are looking at possibly cutting projects or laying off people in order to do it.”
The City Council will consider the measure two more times before ultimately deciding whether to raise the salaries of elected officials.