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City Commission seeks fair compensation for employees

     Savannah Reams: Greene Publishing, Inc.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 5:30 p.m., the Madison Board of City Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Fair compensation was a priority topic of conversation; beginning with City Clerk Lee Anne Hall, who has served the City of Madison since 1996.

After the meeting was called to order, recognitions made and the consent agenda was passed, it was time to discuss the possibility of approving a new employment agreement and salary for City Clerk Lee Anne Hall. Having added this issue to the agenda, Commissioner Judy Townsend brought the issue to the attention of the Board of Commissioners. Townsend stated that Hall had worked for the city for many years, adding that she had not been evaluated in over ten years. Hall's last employment agreement dates back to 2003. City Attorney Clay Schnitker suggested that, if the Commission decided to do so, they bring the employment agreement to date, adding whatever new salary was agreed upon.

Commissioner Rayne Cooks suggested the commission look into a salary study or compare Hall's salary to other cities. "I think we need something to go by," said Cooks. Cooks was informed by Hall that a rate study, at the least, would cost $25,000. Townsend asserted that she had looked into Monticello's salaries and, while Hall makes only $46,000, the City Clerk for Monticello is making $51,000.

"We've had other employees who have been here for lots of years receive raises within the last six weeks, so fair is fair," added Townsend. "I feel like we should do something."

Cooks replied, "I'm not saying we shouldn't do something, I'm just saying I think we need some kind of guidelines or provisions to go by." She added, "While we are talking about this, and this is not on the agenda, we need to look at some of the other employees who are really low. There's a big discrepancy in our pay scale. I feel like we should look at the whole situation. And she deserves a raise, just as everybody else, but there's some out there that are doing the day to day work out in the sun and I don't feel like they are being treated equally, either."

"I would be willing to give mine to every employee who gets out there and works, but read my letter," replied Hall. In a letter addressed to the City Commissioners, Hall requested they review her old employment agreement, stating she looked forward to discussing the terms of a new employment agreement. "I have decided to let bygones be bygones; as we cannot undo what has been done," said Hall in her letter. "However, there is one thing that I must get off my chest and that is I have witnessed inequalities for city employees who have dedicated years and years of service to the city and not been compensated fairly. I've seen new employees brought in making as much or more than employees with far more years of service and experience . . . there are many who I am taking a stand for who are afraid to speak out."

Town Manager Wyche, stood to address the disparities in compensation which had been addressed by both Cooks and Hall. He assured the commissioners that he was working on a plan to bring all salaries where they needed to be.

Commissioner Townsend made a motion to bring Hall's employment agreement up-to-date and to move her salary to $50,000. Commissioner Jim Catron seconded the motion. Before the commissioners voted, Commissioner Terry Johnson addressed the board. He asserted that he had also done research on what other city clerks were being compensated. "I really think she deserves more than $50,000," said Johnson. "I think she deserves somewhere around $52,500, considering the years with low salary, no raise. So I think we should up it and give her what she deserves."

"I agree with Mr. Johnson," said Mayor Ina Thompson. "I don't think the city could operate without Lee Anne. She helps with the citizens, she helps with every department head and I think it's just bad on our part that we have not looked at this before. I think we should look at the budget and, if we could, I mean, I agree it should be at least $50,000 and, if it could go a little higher, I would like to see it go higher and then it's up to the City Manager and the administration to look and see what we can do with the other salaries."

Townsend withdrew her motion and Catron withdrew his second. Commissioner Johnson made a motion that Hall be compensated $52,500, with the same terms as the old employment agreement, only bringing it up-to-date, and removing the family health insurance coverage Hall no longer needs. Catron seconded the motion.

Before the final vote, Cooks stated that she had no objection, but she wanted to make sure the budget could withstand the raise and that other employees would also be treated fairly. Town Manager Wyche assured her that this was, in fact, the case. Hall added, "If you read my letter, you know that I no longer need dependent care; that's $10,000 . . . y'all have not had that expense from me in years." She went on to say, "When we get this budget done, that is our next project. We build a spreadsheet, we have everybody's classification and pay range, we've got the number of years... because no one can live on $10 an hour." She asserted that years of experience, as well as low-paid employees, were their first priority.

The commissioners voted unanimously to accept Hall's new employment agreement and salary adjustment. All were in accord that fair compensation would take precedence at City Hall.

There will be a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 5:30 p.m. to address the proposed tax increase the city has tentatively adopted. A final decision on the proposed tax increase and the budget will be made at this hearing. All concerned citizens are invited to attend. If you have any questions about the agenda, contact City Hall at (850) 973-5081.

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