City council votes to 'freeze' employee salaries before cut

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - City employees can breathe a sigh of relief. The Meridian City Council in a 4-to-1 vote agreed to freeze employee salaries where they were before last week’s unexpected pay cuts went into effect. Ward 4 Councilwoman Kim Houston says this is just the beginning.

"Now this is not the end of it because we are still going to have to go back and still address the current salary caps we have in place," said Houston.

Houston says the employees who had their salaries frozen aren't the only problem. She says the council must address pay issues with 430 other city employees. That starts with establishing a new pay band.

"So we're going to have to address this whole salary band, pay band issue. Reestablish some things. And at that point if someone is over that amount then we're definitely going to have to make sure that administration gets back with us and lets us know how to move forward," said Houston.

The council set a January 1st deadline to vote on a pay band solution. The target date gives the council time to adjust any salaries still over the pay band when the new one is adopted.

"We don't want to go backwards with these pay bands and we don't want to go backwards with the people that are doing those duties," said Mayor Percy Bland.

Council President Tyrone Johnson says the goal is to balance an equal and fair scale for all city employees.

"We don't want the perception of this is a 'buddy-buddy system' here in our city and I think that's where we are now. A lot of people think it's that and we're trying to get away from that perception," says Johnson.

The council hopes to have a work session soon to discuss options.

"And we need to get past, to me, targeting a few people as we look at these pay bands. I think I would if I were a council member to try to take some of those things out of it and just look at what each one of those people do, move forward," says Bland.

Johnson, Houston, Dr. George Thomas and Weston Lindemann voted 'yes' on the pay freeze. Councilwoman Fannie Johnson voted against it.