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Apr 08

Manager's Message 4-8-15: Budget Highlights

Posted on April 8, 2015 at 2:38 PM by Mary Bunting

Today, I will be giving City Council the highlights of the budget I am recommending for fiscal 2016. While I hope you will have the opportunity to watch the full presentation live or in replay later, I know that many of you are far too busy meeting the needs of our citizens. Therefore, I will give you the highlights of the highlights, focusing on the portions that most affect you.

 As I have said all year, employee salaries are our highest priority for this budget. We need to recognize the hard work that you all continue to do, often taking on additional responsibilities as we streamlined staff to become as efficient as possible. I am proposing that all employees — full time, part time and WAE — get a 3 percent raise in the first paycheck of the fiscal year, which begins this July. Because the employee share of health insurance premiums would have increased (between $108 and $439 per year, depending on level of coverage), that increase would have eroded much of the salary gains — about half for an employee making less than $30,000 who gets family coverage. Therefore, to ensure that you all receive a true 3 percent increase, I am also proposing that the city pick up the employee’s share of this year’s health insurance premiums. The budget also continues the City's coverage of the employee share of the life insurance premium as well as the bonus personal days we began awarding several years ago.

That is just the beginning. I have also set aside money - $1,000,000 - to implement in phases the recommendation of the salary study we are undergoing. We expect to have the results this fall, in time to adjust the salary of anyone who falls below the new minimum in their job. We expect that adjustment in January 2016. In July 2016, we will look at the compression caused by moving up the minimums on those with more experience whose salary no longer reflects that experience level. Further, at that time, we expect to continue with consistent, sustainable annual wage increases. (Please refer to my last email - or watch the video of today's Council presentation - for more details on the reasons for this sequencing.)

 To fund these FY 2016 compensation enhancements, this budget shifts $1 million from the Council Strategic Priority funds in the capital budget to the operating budget. I am recommending we take this action so we can achieve a meaningful increase and because I believe that City Council agrees that retaining our loyal and talented staff is a strategic priority for our City.

 Other highlights of the budget include: No major cuts in services and no increases in general property or personal property rates. I will, however, propose increasing the solid waste fee to maintain our excellent level of services and our stormwater fee  to stay on schedule to meet pollution mandates and flooding challenges. In addition, I’m proposing a cigarette tax increase of 5 cents per pack, and a new Boat License Fee of $20-$150, depending on size of the boat. (Small non-motorized boats will be exempt.)

  I will add some of the closing thoughts I am presenting to Council, as I feel they sum up this budget proposal, compared with the previous five budgets, all extremely difficult and painful:

"As I reflect on those past years, and the ones ahead, one thing is abundantly clear. Our citizens, businesses, staff and elected officials have all consistently pulled together during the tough economy to keep Hampton’s quality of life strong. We have shown that we are willing to make tough choices when necessary – whether that is restructuring the staff or supporting a higher tax rate that offsets the decline in property values. We have committed to focusing on increasing growth in the commercial tax base, housing stock and reinvesting in our community. These tough decisions have served us well, and we are now beginning to reap the benefits of the sacrifices made. Our ability to reinvest in our employees is but one example." 




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