By MARK EVANS
Ste. Genevieve city employees will be getting a $1 an hour flat raise for 2023, rather than an 8% cost of living raise. Meanwhile, a cap will be put on what employees must pay per year on their insurance premium at $300 a month, when they begin assuming 30% of the cost in March.
The board of aldermen reached the decision after hashing things out for more than two hours during a budget work session last Thursday.
It was also decided that the city will pay $25,000 to purchase a comprehensive salary study of similar-sized towns and businesses in the area.
Ward 3 Alderman Mike Raney was one who pushed for the salary study.
“Let’s get well,” he said late in the meeting. “We need to buy some stuff to get well. We need a tool in our toolbox that we don’t have right now.”
That tool, he argued, is the salary study, to give the officials an idea of how its pay scale aligns with other communities and businesses.
The decision to go with a flat $1 an hour raise is expected to disappoint some employees.
“Nobody wants to be the jerk.” Ward 4 Alderwoman Ashley Armbruster said. She also supported the salary survey. She argued that the study would “hold the city accountable.”
Mayor Paul Hassler wasn’t to separate the two issues.
“I think our problem is, we’re trying to tie this study to a raise,” he said. “They’re two different things. The study needs to be done. … Now we need to talk about a fair wage and to take care of our employees with a raise. I understand the inflation. Everything is high.”
Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan reminded him that they must answer to their constituents as well as their employees.
“We’re going to send a message to the people that serve and are working for us,” Donovan said. He said he examined the history of cost of living increases in social security benefits and called it “eye opening.”
“There’s double digit in the ‘80s and then 1 or 2 percent,” he said.
It has been 3% every year for the last few years.
“Without the study, we’re just giving an opinion,” he said.
“The biggest thing you’re to compare to is other businesses, like Mississippi Lime,” Hassler said. “This study is going to shock a lot of people, is what it’s going to do.”
Trying to satisfy both employees and taxpayers – many of whom will be getting no raises at all – is a difficult task.
“I understand the balance beam we’re on,” Hassler said. “We have to take care of our employees and our customers.”