By Roz Kohls
DASSEL, MN Dassel city council members were divided last Monday whether to raise salaries for the eight full-time city employees, and if so, how much to raise them.
They decided to table consideration of the personnel committee’s recommendation until the next city council meeting 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 1. As a result, City Administrator Myles McGrath will have time to show how the proposed raises will affect the budget before the budget needs to be finalized in December.
The personnel committee proposed raising salaries 4.8 percent for employees, but not the city administrator, for all wage scales for 2009. The city administrator will have a 2.5 percent increase.
In addition to the $400,000 budgeted for these employees in 2008, the proposal would mean $19,200 more in 2009.
Mayor Ava Flachmeyer said she thought 4.8 percent was excessive. Council Member Pat Haapala wanted to wait a few months to see what will happen with the economy, before raising any salaries, she said.
McGrath said the personnel committee arrived at the 4.8 percentage point by considering the Consumer Price Index, and what other cities the same size as Dassel pay their employees.
Also, Council Member Bob Lalone, a member of the personnel committee, said the committee was concerned the city’s experienced employees would leave if their salaries didn’t keep up with inflation. Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak and McGrath will retire eventually, and the city will have no one with the experience to take their places, Lalone said.
He pointed out how public works employees Walt Hansen and Jay Evjen recently earned certificates for city utility operations.
Council Member Bob Wilde, also a member of the committee, said prices in Dassel, except for housing, are just as high as those in the Twin Cities.
Flachmeyer first proposed a 2 percent increase. Later, she suggested splitting the difference at 3.5 percent.
The personnel committee also recommended sick leave hours beyond 480 not be accumulated and paid out to employees after they retire.
The on-call rate for public works employees was adjusted to $125 a week. The employees take turns being on-call, which means they are not allowed to go farther from Dassel than five miles, in case there is an emergency with the water or wastewater system.
Also, Health Partners will continue to provide the employees’ health insurance. McGrath will receive an additional 40 hours of vacation, and an increase of compensatory time for meetings at night to 12 hours monthly from eight hours monthly, according to the personnel committee’s proposal.
McGrath will calculate how much a 2 percent increase will affect the budget, how much a 3.5 percent increase will affect the budget, and how much a 4.8 percent increase will affect the budget, and will show the results to the council at the next meeting Dec. 1.
In other budget business, the council is preparing to award a bid at its Monday, Dec. 15 meeting for a lead pumper truck for the Dassel Fire Department. Financial sources will most likely be confirmed during a special meeting in late December, McGrath said.
In addition, the tax increment financing (TIF) district set up for Fulfillment Systems in Dassel will be decertified. The TIF was contingent on Fulfillment Systems reaching specific employment and wage levels, and the company failed to do so after two extensions, McGrath said.
The company’s 2009 tax obligation will be as if it never had the TIF business subsidy, he said.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• rescheduled the annexation hearing for Todd and Anne Marie Horrman’s property in Dassel to Dec. 1 from Dec. 2.
• granted a 3.2 beer license to Hojies Grill & Smokehouse.
• called a Dassel Economic Development Authority meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, to have the EDA lease the empty space next to Dassel Liquors, and then sublet the space to tenants, increasing economic development in the city. This would provide a revenue stream to offset the depreciation of the municipal liquor store, and was recommended by the city auditor.