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City council adopts employee pay raises, citing the need to keep up with rising costs of living

BUCKHANNON – Following months of meetings with department heads and recommendations from the various Buckhannon City utility boards and the Revenue Review Committee, Buckhannon City Council on Thursday approved updated wage increases, totaling nearly $540,000.

That total — exactly $539,803.76 — includes salaries as well as overtime, FICA, federal withholding taxes, retirement, workers’ compensation and unemployment taxes.

“The Revenue and Review Expense Committee has been meeting a good bit recently throughout the month of September,” Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner said. “We reviewed every single board of the city, every single employee of the city to work on giving pay raises to each department we oversee. The members of that committee were made up of a representative of each board – Waste Board, Water Board, Sanitary Board and Consolidated [Public] Works Board – who worked with Amberle Jenkins and Barb (Hinkle) and the department heads.”

“I want to specifically thank Buckhannon City Councilmen Dave Thomas and Jack Reger for their work on this project,” Skinner added.

Skinner said Reger made spreadsheets and worked hand-in-hand with Amberle Jenkins and said Thomas has a ‘great financial mind’ when it comes to spending the city’s money. He said he appreciated everyone who has been involved in the process.

Skinner then read the summary of increases which included office, $1,864.72; code enforcement, $2,905.01; City Hall, $3,410.53; parking, $3,605.47; police, $160,828.18; fire, $16,673.28; streets $83,697.87; Stockert Youth Center, $4,925.48; Colonial Arts Center, $2,691.52; horticulture, $3,829.86; water plant and lines, $66,768.00; office water, $10,907.70; sanitary plant and line, $40,814.59; office sanitary, $13,835.09; waste, $104,685.61; and office waste, $18,360.85.

“That is the proposal,” Skinner said. “This is crucial. We have to stay competitive. What we have seen economically with inflation, our employees are feeling it. We have to maintain the high quality of services that we provide to our citizens each and every day. We are not the reason Buckhannon is a great place to live and work and enjoy – it is our employees who work out on the streets and in the departments every day and in our city hall every day – that is who makes our organization what it is. We have long prided ourselves at the city that when we bring a new employee on, they are going to retire here.”

Skinner said with economic conditions, the city has had some turnover recently.

“We need to make sure we are staying on the cutting edge, providing livable and competitive wages,” Skinner said. “We have always said we have great benefits, and we do, but you cannot eat benefits. If you are coming to work here and you have a young family to feed, the benefits are crucial, but those do not help you at the grocery store or at the gas pump, at Lowe’s or at Walmart. That is the reasoning and thought process behind getting here. This was a great exercise, and our department heads were vital in helping us come up with these numbers.”

Jenkins said someone had asked about how many employees the pay increases will affect, and she said there are about 90 full-time employees with the City of Buckhannon.

“Not every employee received a pay increase,” she said. “The City of Buckhannon is more of a service organization. We do not sell bread; we sell people in our work. We are our product. We are trying to set these so employees stay in place and we do not have so much turnover.”

Reger said he genuinely believes the proposed increases are appropriate.

“As a city, we have a moral obligation to take care of our employees,” Reger said. “We need to ensure they can provide for their families. The pay raises we are giving sound significant, but given inflation, I do not think we are keeping up, but we are doing the best we can. It is obviously something we may have to come back in a few years and visit again – but we need to take care of our employees because they certainly take care of us. I feel this is warranted and my only regret is we cannot do more.”

Thomas said the increases are significant and warranted.

A motion to adopt the proposed raises, which Skinner said would be effective Nov. 1, 2022, was made by Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders and it received a second from Councilwoman Pam Bucklew. The proposed salary increases were approved unanimously.

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