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Town board approves modest pay increases

Town of Pahrump staff members received an early Christmas gift from the town board this week.

Board members voted to approve a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to non-bargaining unit staff during Tuesday’s board meeting.

As a result, staff will get a 2-percent pay increase in January with an additional 2-percent increase slated for next July.

The action comes as the local economy slowly recovers from the economic downturn.

Federal legislation enacted more than 40 ago years provides for cost-of-living adjustments to keep pace with inflation.

Town Board Chair Harley Kulkin authored the agenda item. He said staff has not received a COLA increase in several years.

“I would like to see staff get an increase because it has been quite a while.” Kulkin said.

The discussions on pay increases for non-unit bargaining town staff comes more than a year after town department heads actually turned down STEP increases to help keep the town’s finances out of the red.

STEPs are periodic pay raises for public employees that reward longevity.

Finance Director Mike Sullivan, Fire Chief Lewis, Building and Grounds Manager Matt Luis, and Human Resources Director Terry Bostwick voluntarily gave up their respective raises.

Former Town Manager Bill Kohbarger let more than $14,000 go back to taxpayers after five years of serving as the town’s top administrator.

Dr. Tom Waters agreed with the pay raises.

“We also need to look at the fact that we will be updating job descriptions. If we find out that they are doing more than they are in their current description, that in itself may require an additional raise,” he said.

Kulkin took his argument for supporting the pay increase further.

The chairman noted that a 4-percent wage hike is really not a lot of money to reward staff.

“Let me put a dollar figure on this. Some of the employees make, give-or-take $30,000 a year which would be about $15 an hour. Some make less and some make more. The bottom line is a 4-percent raise is $100 a month or $1,200 a year, which is $25 a week before taxes. I wish we could give them more because it’s not that much money. It fits in our budget and they more than deserve it,” he said.

Not all board members completely embraced the pay raise consideration.

Amy Riches seemed to straddle the fence between her allegiance to her constituents and loyalty to staff members.

“The town and the community has not come out of the recession and I can hear people saying in my mind that ‘we don’t get a raise, so why are you using our money to give them a raise?’ I want to clarify my feelings on this. I have seen staff many times go above and beyond. I listen to the people and if they say to me not to give them any money, I will do what they want but in my opinion, staff deserves it,” she said, before reluctantly voting for the raises.

Hourly staff were not alone in getting a little more on their paychecks.

Board members also voted to ratify the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4068.

As a result, fire crews will soon see a 1.5-percent pay increase beginning next year.

The action comes more than a year after contentious negotiations between the IAFF and town staff where the possibility of layoffs was front and center.

Both sides eventually arrived at an agreement that froze the union’s STEP increases and averted pending 11th hour layoffs, saving the town approximately $145,000 annually.

The agreement came at roughly the same time when the town board was forced to write off more than $500,000 in potential revenue from the town’s ambulance service for uncollected billing fees.