Published in the Iola Register on Dec. 6, 2012.

City employees get 1% pay raise

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

The Concordia City Commission approved a one-percent pay raise for all employees Wednesday night.
The pay increase was included in the 2013 budget. But before approval, Commissioner Charles Johnson said he would rather see the raise be equalized by giving each classified and non-classified employee the same amount – $327.29.
Mayor Lyle Pounds said as a teacher for 40 years, he'd grown accustomed to those with more experience receiving more of a raise when it was based on a percentage.
"Those on the lower end get less and if you have a higher degree with more experience, you got more," Pounds said. "This one-percent across the board raise, I don't have any problem with it."
Johnson disagreed, saying those who were on the lower end of the pay scale were the ones doing most of the work.
"It's very true that when you deal with percentages, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," he said.
Commissioner Tim Parker said it was important to look at the level of experience when considering pay scales.
"The higher classified employee is probably more valuable and harder to replace," he said. "That's true at my restaurant, so they should be compensated that way."
Despite his call for raises to be a set dollar amount, Johnson voted with the rest of the Commission to approve the one-percent raise for all 47 classified and eight non-classified employees.
While no action was taken, the Commission came to the consensus to put the savings from switching insurance plans toward debt payments.
In August, the Commission approved switching from the state of Kansas employee health plan to Blue Cross Blue Shield, resulting in more than $100,000 in savings.
Finance Director Amber Farha presented the Commission with several options to use the excess money, one being to move it to the debt service fund. In 2014, the debt service fund will require an additional four mills to cover debt payments. This trend of increasing debt payments will continue after 2014, she said.
Pounds said construction of the dam at Plum Road will require an additional three mills. Instead of having to raise taxes to pay for that, he said he would rather see the Commission find a way to absorb that cost. One way to do that, he said, would be to apply the $128,000 in insurance savings to the city's debt.
The other Commissioners agreed, and Farha said she would prepare a rough draft of a budget amendment to present at the next meeting.
City Manager Larry Uri told Commissioners that one downtown property owner has expressed interest in the new Community Development Block Grant commercial rehabilitation program. Because the city can only sponsor one grant applicant, Uri said he has begun advertising the program to give all eligible property owners an opportunity to apply.
Anyone interested in applying is asked to submit a preliminary description of the proposed project to City Hall by 5 p.m. on Mon., Dec. 17.
The Commission also approved an extension on a development agreement between the City and Womack Sunshine Ford.
Since 2010, Steve Womack has had an option to purchase land in Concordia's flood control area to relocate his Ford dealership. Now that the land is ready for development, Womack has asked to have until April 1, 2013, to make a decision on purchasing the three acre tract at the intersection of Highway 81 and College Drive.