By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
At a recent meeting of the San Benito City Commission, the mayor and elected officials asked City Manager Manuel Lara to reassess the 2014-2015 proposed budget, in an effort to potentially offer City employees a pay raise as high as five percent.
“The elected officials and Mayor asked me to provide a couple of percentages,” said Lara. “Numbers for (potential) three percent and five percent raises (are being considered).”
Lara said once provided with the numbers, “they will look at total amount of funds required for whatever percentage raise they decide” to give employees.
Mayor Celeste Sanchez said, although City employees received a $0.50 raise last year, she feels another raise is well-deserved. “We appreciate our employees and we realize the cost of living goes up every year. While we know that we are not paying competitively (with regard) to the wealthier cities, we certainly want to maintain (retention among) our good employees.”
Last year, there were no specific requirements for an employee to meet in order to receive the raise, i.e. years working for the City, position held, present salary, etc. Lara explained, “All City employees received a raise last year. I had initially set (the raise) up on a matrix system, but they (elected officials) asked to provide everybody a uniform raise across the board, including all City staff.”
Additionally, other budget concerns are being proposed and addressed at this time. “We’re still in workshop mode, depending on what else (officials) ask us to look into. We probably won’t have approval until September,” said Lara. “We’re still working (with the) first draft of the balanced budget.”
Lara said the City will vie to make this year’s budget comparable to last year’s, although at least a few slight changes have been proposed thus far. He said the City is anticipating a $200,000 increase in general funds, while he expects to see a slight reduction in utility funds.
Furthermore, Lara stated the City will hold several special workshops in the weeks to come in order to address specific budget-related topics. He said, “We have a calendar of schedule meetings scheduled in August, most of which are special. There, (officials) can tell us what (items) they would like us to consider, remove or have second thoughts about.”
At a special workshop slated for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18, the Commission will vote to approve the potential raise for employees. San Benitians who are interested in viewing the budget—not yet in its final draft—can do so at the City Municipal Building during working hours.