Whitehall City Council members appear prepared to adopt the city's 2014 operating budget as presented by Mayor Kim Maggard, but they questioned the mayor about several components of the budget at committee meetings Nov. 26.
An ordinance appropriating $27.4 million to the city's general fund, street department and material expenses was scheduled for a second reading Tuesday, Dec. 3, and is set for a third and final reading Dec. 17.
The general fund portion of the appropriation is $26.2 million.
"I budgeted revenue conservatively," Maggard told council members.
The general fund budget for 2014 shows a surplus of $21,210. Future budgets project deficit spending beginning in 2015, when estimated expenses of $26.9 million will exceed estimated revenue of $26.5 million by about $400,000.
Council members questioned several specific salary increases, including those of Director of Information Technology Tom Kneeland and Development Director Zach Woodruff.
"He is severely underpaid," Maggard said of Kneeland, adding the salary boost moves him only to the middle of the salary range for the position.
The 2014 budget sets aside $84,600 for the annual salary of the director of information technology. The proposed salary range, also subject to council approval via an ordinance amending salary ranges for multiple positions, is $80,144 to $99,607.
In 2012, Kneeland was paid $72,579. This year, $83,543 was appropriated.
The salary of the development director is set at $73,000 for 2014, up from the $66,500 appropriated this year and $61,787 allocated in 2012.
The maximum salary for the position would increase to $83,796 from $76,101 if council approves pending legislation to amend the city's salary schedule.
Maggard said Woodruff, whom she appointed upon the resignation of the former director, warrants the increase.
But Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte questioned the raise in contrast to the 2 percent cost-of-living increases most other employees are receiving.
Maggard said she anticipated the question and explained those employees already at the top of their salary ranges would not receive a wage increase as significant as those at the lower end of the scale, such as Woodruff.
"When I hired (Woodruff), I said, 'Show me what you can do,' " adding his hiring immediately saved the city money, as the previous director had an annual salary of nearly $90,000.
"His creative and out-of-the-box thinking deserves this salary (increase) and he still is only at the middle of the range," Maggard said.
The budget of the civil service commission is $44,125 in 2014, up from the $17,950 appropriated in 2013.
Maggard said the city anticipates a significant increase in testing in 2014 and set aside $30,000 for that purpose.