TARPON SPRINGS — Amid the scraping for savings, city of Tarpon Springs employees could still see small raises next year.
In a Tuesday night budget work session, city commissioners largely supported proposed pay increases of 1 to 2 percent for most full- and part-time city workers earning $75,000 or less annually.
If approved in the 2012-13 budget, the raises could cost the city $121,885, said City Manager Mark LeCouris. They do not cover police and fire employees, or city employees who have recently received raises higher than 5 percent.
Being able to afford raises in the $20 million budget was "quite a nice surprise," City Commissioner Susan Slattery said.
City employees have not been given raises for three years, according to LeCouris.
The scaled proposal gives the highest raises of 2 percent to workers making $55,000 or less. The raises decrease to 1.5 and 1 percent for higher salary ranges.
LeCouris initially proposed no raises for the 10 city employees — including himself — who make more than $75,000.
"They tend to create controversy," he explained to the commission.
But Mayor David Archie wanted to consider boosting salaries for those highest-paid workers, which the human resources department calculated could add expenses of about $7,000 for half-percent raises or $11,000 for 1 percent raises.
"Everyone is deemed worthy of something," Archie said.
Compared to other similar Florida cities, Tarpon Springs city workers make lower wages, LeCouris said. Starting salaries lag behind by about 6 to 7 percent, while top-end salaries amount to about 3 percent less than the state's other municipalities.
But the proposed 2 percent raises are comparable to what other Pinellas County cities are attempting to offer their staffers, he said.
Last year, Tarpon Springs spent about $205,000 on one-time payments to city employees for an additional 1 to 3 percent of their salaries based on years of service, LeCouris said. Those checks came with a pledge by city officials to seek raises this year.
At Tuesday's work session, LeCouris also presented potential reductions to prevent the city from having to take $1.09 million from reserves to balance the budget. His proposal accounts for the pay raises, factors in projected unspent funds and lowers expenses through cuts and departmental organizations. It could reduce the city's spending of reserves to about $800,000.
Two public hearings will be held Sept. 13 and Sept. 24 before the City Commission approves the budget.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.