Meridian city council discusses employee pay cuts

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Modernizing the current pay-band structure remains at the forefront for the Meridian City Council. Leaders are working towards a solution, but officials say the fix won’t come overnight.

"The things that we're going through right now, it's making the guys' morale go way down. And if they go ahead and just, I don't care, give us a dollar more that can raise morale so high right now. Because the way that they're feeling now, it feels like the city council nor the city cares about public works," says Bill Barfield, Senior Supervisor of Public Works.

The City Council agreed in Tuesday's work session that restoring pay before last week's cuts is the best option until the pay-band is updated. Last Friday, the city cut the salaries of over 60 employees after a city attorney provided a legal opinion that pay must return to the 1991-approved pay bands.

Barfield wants a new scale that is reflective of his men's work and cost of living.

"We're not just employed by the city but we're also citizens of Meridian,” Barfield said. “And if we're going to be using our money to go to different shops and everything here, how can we do that if we're not paid enough to be able to enjoy what the city offers?"

Councilwoman Kim Houston says the council plans to set a January 1st deadline to sort through issues and make sure everybody is properly compensated.

"And we also have to be mindful that there are 430 other employees who feel strongly about some areas of them not being treated fairly. So it's a whole broad range of things that we're going to have to try to address to make sure that all of our employees are treated fairly," said Houston.

Houston says she is also in favor of having the pay medium of the updated pay-band reflect the 2015 Stennis Study average done for the city.

“This will give some leeway for the Public Works Department, some of the other employees and give the administration a little bit more wiggle room if you will so that we are operating in a 2018 payroll environment.”

To avoid future issues, the council proposed that any employees paid outside the pay-band be brought in front of the council for a vote.

"And I'm in agreement with the freeze on their pay. I don't think that they should be all just slashed across the board like it has done this last week. So we're going to address it on Thursday, but moving forward if we don't put more controls in place, we aren't solving anything," said Houston.

A special meeting to discuss these issues is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m.