Following a summer of at-times contentious budget hearings, the Mandeville City Council on Thursday approved a $45 million budget for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins Sept. 1.
The budget anticipates $27 million in revenue and includes a $19.5 million operating budget, of which $11.1 million will go to employee salaries and benefits. The $25.8 million capital budget includes $12.7 million in projects originally budgeted for this year that will be carried over into next year.
Earlier in the year, the board that oversees the city’s civil service employees recommended the council pass an across-the-board 15 percent pay increase for the roughly 100 employees. Such a raise would have cost about $1.16 million.
Some on the council balked at such a large increase, and Mayor Donald Villere initially suggested a $1,000 increase at the bottom of each job’s pay scale, a raise that would have a ripple effect through the upper parts of the scale. That plan would have cost the city about $450,000.
The mayor later revised his plan to add a 5 percent raise on top of the original $1,000.
During the council’s four summer budget hearings, city employees filled the chamber, some pleading for raises.
Many on the council agreed that the employees — some of whom earn less than $10 per hour and all of whom were hit with big health insurance cost increases last year— need a raise. When the dust settled, the council agreed to an 11.6 percent increase along with another 2.5 percent merit raise for eligible employees.
But even after Thursday’s meeting, not all the issues have been resolved. The council froze the pay of the city’s mostly appointed department directors, meaning that Police Chief Rick Richard will earn less than his top deputy, who is under civil service. The council will have to amend the budget if it wants to fix that.
A further complication was thrown into the mix Monday, when Human Resources Director Gretchen McKinney, whose job is half civil service and half appointed, told the council that if she didn’t get the same raise as other civil service employees, the city could face a lawsuit. In the end, McKinney got her raise, though it angered some council members.
Councilwoman Carla Buchholz said it was high time the employees were rewarded.
“They are the backbone of this community,” she said. “I think we did well for our employees.”
The budget includes $1.2 million for flood protection measures along the Galvez Canal and $1 million to expand the Florida Boulevard Extension between the North Causeway and West Causeway approaches.
The council added some small items, such as $5,000 to form a task force with the Northshore Community Foundation, a nonprofit that has offered to help the city compete for grants. It also inserted language into the budget defining professional service contracts and detailing how the council is to be informed about certain contracts.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.