The East Ridge City Council on Thursday night approved employee bonuses effective in March, though the council was told the $100,000 cost could throw the city into a deficit.
The city last year had a $917,000 surplus, but City Manager Tim Gobble said there have been a number of budget hits this fiscal year. He said he still is hopeful for a surplus of $200,000 to $300,000 by the end of June, though he said there are several uncertainties.
The main one is how the city will fare on a garbage charge that is tacked onto the property tax bill rather than the water bill as before.
Officials said the city is at a $1.8 million deficit at this point, but most of the tax money is yet to come in. There was a $173,000 surplus last month.
Costs are up $250,000 due to insurance and other factors and $150,000 in expected income was lost due to exempting owners of unoccupied lots from paying the garbage fee.
Mr. Gobble said it appears in some cases that mortgage companies are not remitting the garbage fee - just paying the property taxes to the city.
The motion by Councilman Denny Manning gives $600 bonuses to 117 fulltime employees, $500 bonuses to 25 parttime employees and also includes 14 unpaid reserve officers.
Voting to approve were Council members Manning and Marc Gravitt along with Vice Mayor Jim Bethune. Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilman Larry Sewell were opposed, saying it would have been better to have given any raises at the start of the next fiscal year after it is know about the garbage fee collections.
Councilman Manning said, "We were told that last year." The last city employee raise was in 2011.
City officials said employees were seeing drops in their take-home pay effective this month due to higher individual Social Security amounts and new withholding changes. If the $600 had been stretched over several months as was discussed, the employees might not have noticed the difference, it was stated.
The council held off on any action regarding setting of the agenda. Councilman Gravitt said his intention had been to allow any member of the council to add an item to the agenda - not just the mayor. And he said he wanted to insure that the agenda is posted as early as possible on the city website.