ZEPHYRHILLS —– The city manager and some city employees will see significant salary adjustments in the upcoming budget year, thanks to a market salary study comparing pay rates in other Florida cities of similar size.
The council agreed in earlier budget workshops to adjust employee salaries — excluding the city manager's position — by half the percentage amount the survey recommends and take another look at giving the other half in next year's budget negotiations. So the recommended 18.9 percent suggested increase in the base pay of a Zephyrhills firefighter/emergency medical technician will result in a roughly 9 percent pay hike.
In addition, council members decided to give an additional 3 percent across-the-board pay raise to all employees. The total cost of salary adjustments and the 3 percent pay raise is about $45,000, said finance director Stacie Poppell.
At Monday's council meeting, members voted 3-2 to treat the city manager's position the same as other employees, adjusting it by one-half the recommended percentage of 18.8 percent. With the 3 percent raise, City Manager Jim Drumm's pay will jump from $94,325 to $106,030. That amount still puts his salary second from the bottom of the 20 cities surveyed for the study, with the Panhandle city of Callaway the lowest at $90,000 and Stuart highest at $155,000.
Council President Lance Smith and member Ken Burgess voted against adjusting Drumm's pay, saying the appropriate time to make changes is during his contract negotiations. But council member Kent Compton pointed out that when the council took similar action in 2006 to bring employee salaries in line with comparably sized cities, the city manager's position was included.
The council approved Drumm's proposed $57.8 million budget on a 3-2 vote, with Smith and Burgess opposed. Both said they are not comfortable with the addition of a new position that could be perceived as an assistant city manager. Drumm stressed the position already exists, but has been vacant since the departure earlier this year of human resources director Katrina Bouthout. His plan is to retool the position to include some administrative duties, in addition to human resources, and give it the title director of management services.
Smith, Burgess and Mayor Danny Burgess said they are concerned morale could suffer if employees see the position as adding another layer of bureaucracy; Drumm pledged that will not happen.
The budget takes effect Oct. 1. A vote on the 2013-14 tax rate went smoothly, with council members unanimously agreeing to keep the current rate of 6.14 mills in place. Public hearings on the budget and tax rate drew no input. A second and final vote, along with public hearings, takes place Sept. 30.
In other business:
• The council agreed on an ordinance retooling a Mayor's Youth Council, which was originally created in 2001 but fizzled out a few years later. The new version tasks the mayor as the guiding force of the seven-member board, which will discuss city issues and make recommendations. Youths in grades nine through 12 from public, private or home schools are encouraged to apply through city hall for two-year terms.
• Historical preservation specialist John Link told the council, meeting as the community redevelopment agency, that it will cost about $25,000 to make necessary repairs and improvements to the Capt. Jeffries home. Mayor Danny Burgess wants the city to purchase the home to protect its historical integrity and save it from further disrepair. The house, built around 1910 for Zephyrhills founder Capt. Harold B. Jeffries, has been vacant for the past few years and is now bank-owned.
Council members accepted an appraisal putting the home's value at $130,000 and voted to get a second appraisal. They also agreed — with Compton dissenting — to have the city manager, city attorney and mayor negotiate a purchase contract.