By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

After several months of contentious Lee’s Summit City Council sessions and Budget & Finance Committee meetings that attracted a room full of fire fighters, police, public safety workers, and employees, the council approved a substitute ordinance 18-20 to raise city workers pay. City Council also approved ordinance 18-32 to repeal the ordinance related to the reserve fund balance to help pay for those raises.

City payroll specialist, Jennifer Jenkins, addressed City Council about her salary situation. “I’m a grade 12 in our (human resources classification) system but in the compensation study it states I should be a 6. However, a position similar to mine would be a grade 8. I feel like this is a demotion for me to drop from the minimum to the maximum of my pay grade and not be in the same level of my peers,” said Jenkins. She has worked 6 ½ years for the city and 12 years for Hallmark Cards in the same field.

“If you add in the 12 years at Hallmark, I could have 20 years of payroll experience,” she said. “You don’t value me as an employee and I’ve heard the same from other employees who are in turmoil with this study. I feel that the compensation plan shouldn’t be implemented but reviewed by our future human resources manager or a compensation/benefits specialist. They are the most qualified employees to deal with incorrect grades and compression hasn’t been addressed.”

Councilmember Craig Faith offered an amendment to Section 3 of the ordinance to increase the $1.8 million allocated to core city employees to $2 million and Section 5 to increase the $900,000 allocated to the International Association of Fire Fighters from $900,000 to $1.2 million. The amendment calling for an additional $3.9 million versus the $2 million budgeted passed 6-2 with Councilmember Diane Forte and Mayor Pro Tem Rob Binney voting against it. Councilmembers Trish Carlyle, Phyllis Edson, Craig Faith, Dave Mosby, Diane Seif and Fred DeMoro voted in favor of the amendment.

Another amendment was proposed by Councilmember Dave Mosby to specify that the funding would be available for the fiscal year 2019-2020 to address salary increases. The amendment passed 6-2 with Binney and Forte voting no. Substitute ordinance 18-20 passed with Mayor Pro Tem Rob Binney and Councilmembers Diane Forte and Trish Carlyle voting against while Craig Faith, Phyllis Edson, Diane Self, Fred DeMoro and Dave Mosby voted in favor of the measure.

Binney said he was ready to vote in favor of substitute ordinance 18-20 until City Manager Steve Arbo clarified that the following ordinance 18-32 regarding repealing ordinance number 7428 that establishes new fund general reserve guidelines would need to be passed as well. “This reserve fund is one lawsuit or one insurance claim away from not being the reserve fund it should be,” said Binney. Carlyle asked, “Where would the money come from for additional $3.9 million needed for pay raises?” Mosby answered, “For this initial item we would pull $3.9 million from the reserves.”

Councilmember Forte voted against the ordinance because, “I don’t think we need to spend money that we don’t have. I’ve been told and respect it that it is a crisis in year 3 of we don’t bring any more money in the city may not be the most popular thing.” Carlyle agreed saying that the ordinance should be tied to a revenue stream apart from the reserve balance fund. City Finance Director Conrad Lamb said the city had $31 million in the reserve fund balance as of June 30, 2018 but the available cash dropped by $15 million from July 1 to December 1. “Taking $5 million out and you don’t want to borrow tax anticipation notes you would eat through that in 3 years,” said Lamb.

The City has one year to find the additional revenue stream to continue to fund wages on a sustainable basis. The next cycle of raises would be in the fiscal year 2019-2020. Arbo suggested that the City Council go through the city budget by line item to review potential budget cuts.