Crunching the Budget

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$750.00 per year pay raises for Meridian city employees will cost taxpayers more than proposed percentage raises, according to city budget analysts.

This year's city budget was to contain a 2.5 percent across the board pay raise for all employees, but the council changed it to $750 each, in the belief it would save money.

City clerk Ed Skipper says that is not accurate.

"If we look at all the funds involved with the city, that total number is $430,300. Comparing that to the $750 payroll raise per employee city wide for all funds that total number is $482, 600," said Skipper.

That's over $50,000 more, but City Council President Bobby Smith said an across the board fixed amount is the fairest way to treat city employees.

"Even if it costs more. I did not see that at first and I'm really having a little bit of trouble right now seeing it, but if that's the case, and they say it is, and I don't doubt them, I have no problem with it costing a little more to be fair, what I call fair, across the board," Smith said.

A cost-savings plan will also be tried for next year's budget. The city will try partial "self funding" on health insurance. City Human Resources Director Gary Matlock said it is a result of a 12 percent increase in premium costs.

"This is a long term solution. What we've done in the past in having a fully-insured plan is we have changed deductibles," said Matlock.

"We've changed co-pays; we've changed various elements in the plan from year to year, kind of almost like a band aid approach, and a year later costs are out of hand again and we have to do something else. I feel like with a partially self funding plan, we'll have a long-term solution."

Matlock said it is possible the savings could be as much as $300,000.