Mayor Sandy Stimpson has already offered an amendment to his recently introduced fiscal year 2017 budget proposal — asking the Mobile City Council’s finance committee Tuesday to consider giving eligible firefighters a $5,000 annual raise.
When Stimpson first presented his FY 2017 budget last week, the administration’s plan was to set aside $1 million Mobile Fire Rescue officials could use for bonuses, but the new approach is more in line with what was offered Mobile police officers.
Stimpson said those eligible for the raises include firefighters at the rank of captain and below who did not receive one the paramedic pay incentives given in 2007.
The raises, which would go to some 200 to 250 firefighters, is expected to cost the city more than the $1 million Stimpson offered in the original proposal. For that reason, Stimpson said any amount above the $1 million budgeted in the proposal will have to come from the department’s budget.
“I expect that the MFRD will accomplish this through thoughtful restructuring, just like the police have gone through, while maintaining top-notch fire-rescue service for our citizens,” Stimpson said in a statement. “I remain committed to ensuring that we are offering competitive compensation to our employees and this extends beyond just police and fire. As we continue to fix pay discrepancies across the city, I will continue to expect more out of the employees in the service of the citizens.”
Members of the committee, along with some members of the full council attended the first in a series of finance committee meetings on the budget Tuesday afternoon. There, councilors said they supported both sets of pay raises for first responders, though some had a few questions.
If the raises are only extended to firefighters at the rank of captain or below and those who were not also paramedics, it’s expected to leave out roughly seven firefighters at the rank of chief or district chief. The council wanted to see how much it would cost to give raises to those not included, so it would be closer to the across-the board proposal for police officers.
Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch helped the committee examine highlights from the proposed budget. For instance, the proposal includes a $3.6 million increase in the city’s contribution to the Police and Firefighters’ Pension Fund to help cover unfunded liability.
Because of an agreement enter into almost two decades ago, the city is required to pay 4 percent more per year into the fund.
Department line item budgets will see little change, Wesch said, with a few exceptions. He said a change in the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau budget represents a change to the way the CVB will operate.
If approved by council, the budget would take money added to hotel bills — within a designated area — and create a marketing fund for tourism. The fund would then be used to market the area to attract visitors.
Wesch said the capital budget will include money for the city’s capital improvement plan, which has already been allocated, as well as roughly $700,000 in debt service. If not for the refinancing of a bond issue, the city would’ve been paying an additional $500,000 in debt.
Despite the almost completely flat spending suggested in the line item budgets, Wesch said they’d look inflated because of a change to health care payments. He said some $6 million in health care payments that used to be separated out will now be included within the budgets of individual city department.