The COVID-19 pandemic brings uncertainties to revenues coming into city coffers. On Tuesday, that uncertainty forced a delay in the scheduled 2.5%, Jan. 1, 2021 City employee step-increase in pay.
“I completely agree with the comments of the city manager,” Councilman Woody Harris said. “We are fortunate to have the city employees that we do. I’m very proud of each and every one of them. Still, I don’t think when you look at what many, many, many other localities are doing, what the state is doing, I just don’t see this as the year to look at step-increase in the budget. I think we have to err with this budget on the side of caution.”
Harris said if the coronavirus doesn’t return in October, and there are rosier times next year, the Council should then re-visit the step-increase for city employees.
City Manager William Johnson said the step-increase was in the budget as a placeholder. The pay increase would not happen if the revenues for it were not there.
Johnson released the proposed FY20 budget on May 5. The general fund budget proposal is $21.5 million, and the utility fund budget proposal is $8.2 million.
Johnson said the primary impacts to the general fund budget are funding increases to the Southside Regional Jail, landfill fees, election costs for the registrars’ office, part-time Animal Control, and part-time code enforcement/facilities.
A decrease of $54,170 in funding to the Department of Social Services is a sizeable cost-cutting measure listed in the proposed budget.
Manganese remediation is a vital component of the budget proposal. Councilman Jim Saunders said the project must continue. The discolored water issue has been a problem parts of Emporia when the summer temperatures climb.
City officials are working with Black & Veatch and other entities to alleviate water discoloration.
Johnson said the manganese remediation costs is currently a moving target. He sees grants, loans, and other funding measures as a matter of timing.
Johnson expects to know more Tuesday when the City Council has its regular meeting at the municipal building.
The work on the City’s FY20 budget continues, but the outline is in place.
By Virginia law, municipalities must have their budgets completed and ready to go before July 1, when the new budget year goes into effect.