Booneville city employees will soon see a bit more in their paychecks after aldermen approved pay raises.

The board also voted Tuesday to reject a proposal for the county to collect taxes for the city and approved a pair of changes to the city’s hiring policy.

Aldermen approved raises in the fire department based on a rank-based plan submitted by Fire Chief Michael Rutherford, an overall raise of $2/hour for each position in the police department and a raise of $1 per hour for all other full or part-time city employees. The motion for the raises, made by Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Williams and approved unanimously, made clear this increase will be the only increase this year and there will not be any raises included in the budget for the next fiscal year when it is approved in September.

The board agreed the departments can absorb the costs of the raises for the remainder of the fiscal year and the increases can be factored in when the new budget is set. At a previous meeting discussing raises, emphasis was made on the need to bring wages for city jobs closer to those suggested in a wage study commissioned by the city comparing local compensation with that of similar communities in the state in order to be able to attract and retain quality employees.

The board rejected a proposal Tuesday to allow the county to collect city taxes, citing concerns over lost revenue and costs. Mayor Chris Lindley presented the plan which would have contracted with the county for the collection at a cost of 3 percent of monies collected. Lindley said very few cities in the state still collect their own taxes which has made it almost impossible to get appropriate training for the city’s tax collector. He said there have also been legal issues with the city and county operating separate delinquent tax sales involving many of the same properties and there are significant costs involved in collecting the taxes.

Alderman at Large Lavaile Shields said she would be strongly in favor of moving the responsibility out of city hall. However, she expressed concern over how the costs of the proposal would be covered as well as lost revenue from the city’s collection of taxes from the Booneville School District.

City Accountant David Jones told the board the total cost of the proposal including lost fees and payment to the county would be around $150,000.

Aldermen voted not to move forward with the plan due to concerns over the lost revenue.

The board voted to change the city’s hiring policy to remove a requirement for new full-time employees in park maintenance, gas and water, street, and public property departments to hold a high school diploma or GED. Lindley said it’s very difficult to find employees to hire and they’ve had to reject several good potential employees who hold the proper commercial vehicle licenses and machine operating skills due to the diploma requirement. The move does not change the requirement for positions in city hall, fire, police, or any area where money will be handled or clerical skills are required.

Aldermen also agreed to change hiring rules to allow department heads to hire and promote employees based on experience and their recommendation instead of strictly based on time with the city as long as they stay in compliance with all federal and state hiring rules. Street Department Manager James Olive said the change will make it easier for him to fill some much-needed positions.

In other business, the board:

approved the reappointment of all current city department heads for the next four years.

approved the creation of a new three-way stop at the intersection of Independent and Cherry streets at the request of resident Jessie Shields who said the intersection is blind when coming off of Independent and there’s also an issue with speeders in the area.

approved the installation of rumble strips at the four-way stop at West College Street and Foster Park where Ward 4 Alderman Carolyn Miller said she’s heard numerous concerns over speeding.

agreed to seek costs on replacement of sidewalks on Stanley Street after Miller said she’s had concerns raised by residents about their safety walking in the area.

accepted the resignations of police officer Ray Jennings, police officer Shawn Glissen, gas and water employee Hunter Hoard and city hall administrative assistant Ashley Houston.

approved seeking applications for the post of administrative assistant and for a sergeant in the fire department.

approved seeking bids for the financing of the police department project.

approved up to $5,000 for the removal and replacement of sidewalks in the area of the new pocket park beside the Hardware Building with funds coming from the tourism tax fund.

approved promoting Ashley White to the rank of lieutenant in the fire department, hiring Thomas Mynatt as a full-time police officer, Brandon Wright as a full-time police officer and Gabe George as a full-time meter reader.

approved the purchase of a tractor for the street department at the state contract price of $53,685.34 from Chickasaw Equipment.

Banner Independent Editor

Managing editor of the Daily Corinthian’s sister newspaper, Booneville’s Banner-Independent, Brant Sappington has been a member of the Daily Corinthian family since 2001.

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