The Cynthiana City Commission approved the first reading of its 2008-2009 budget at Tuesday's regular meeting.
The new budget contains a raise for all city employees with a range of 4.1 percent to 5 percent, depending on hourly wage. However, raises are still subject to change before the second and final reading of the ordinance at the next meeting.
City clerk Charleen McIlvain said at a budget workshop last week that the raise schedule is basically the same as last year.
It's proposed that there be two levels. Those employees on the low level will receive the 5 percent and those above will receive the 4.1 percent.
"We have people making $8.60 an hour with families to support," Mayor Jim Brown said last week. "How are they going to do it'"
Brown said the city's proposed raise compares favorably to the 1 percent increase teachers in the state are expecting.
While the proposed budget retains the same city sanitation services as last year's, commissioners discussed the possibility of contracting garbage collection with an outside firm.
Commissioner Bill Doan noted that the sanitation department had to be subsidized $64,000 this year to cover costs.
Brown added that for the department to continue it would need to purchase at least one new packer truck and preferably two at a cost of $120,000 to $130,000 each.
It was estimated that to break even in that department, sanitation bills would have to be raised to $16.40, which is a $4.50 increase over the $12 residents are presently paying.
"By no stretch would we vote for a $4.50 increase in garbage pickup," Brown said.
He also noted that if the city opts for an outside firm, the city's sanitation employees would be absorbed in other departments or possibly offered employment with the contracted firm.
"I want to make sure our people are taken care of," Doan stressed.
Brown agreed that city employees would not be harmed.
"Would our men lose their retirement?" questioned Commissioner Jimmy New at the workshop.
"I said 'No city employee would be harmed,'" Brown restated.
Continuing with budget discussions at the workshop, Brown said the city's reserves are better than they have been in four or five years.
"Our finances are better than I've seen in my 16 years in government," Brown said.
To that end, Doan asked that the city consider taking the compensating tax rate this year rather than go with the 4 percent increase.
The compensating rate means revenue generated from taxes would be the same as last year. The 4 percent level gives the city a 4 percent increase in revenue, but does not necessarily mean residents will have a 4 percent increase in their bills. New growth is considered into the formula.
"The compensating rate is not helping the people who need the help," Brown said, identifying non-property owners as those most in need.
"I hate to see us add that 4 percent if we could work this thing and save that $12,000," Doan said of the difference in revenue between the two options.
"When you're talking about a $5.8 million budget, $12,000 is insignificant," Brown said.