By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Albion City Manager Mike Herman said the city will save $105,581 after the city council approve amending health benefits for union employees.
Mayor Joe Domingo, however, is upset that the move comes with a stipulation that will drain funds from the city’s undesignated fund balance to cover next year’s budget deficit rather than explore further cuts.
City council voted 5-2 on Monday to amend health benefits and will vote at its Dec. 6 meeting on the union’s condition that $104,419 from the undesignated fund balance be used to cover the deficit.
“I (was surprised), especially when I went through the budget and told them we don’t have to cut everything out, but we could have left that undesignated fund alone and taken it out of fat — a little bit of overtime, a little bit of compensation,” he said.
He said he doesn’t understand what is “essentially a double raise for non-union employees” in the proposed budget, which serves to put them back on a level playing field after they took a pay freeze in 2010, while union employees received a 2.4 percent pay raise.
Herman said he doesn’t think it’s too much to ask for fair treatment of city employees, especially when non-union workers do a lot of the day-to-day work.
“My problem always is that council, because they don’t have a contract with non-union folks, can basically decide what they want to do and those non-union employees tend to be your salaried department heads you rely on to manage the city and everything else,” he said. “It seems like we take it out on them when we shouldn’t.”
Herman said taking $104,419 from the undesignated fund would leave it at about $767,000.
With a yearly general fund budget of $4.3 million, councilman Andy Zblewski said the changes seemed appropriate and manageable.
“It’s really not an easy choice doing this, but if we can stay above 15 percent (of the annual budget) for the fund balance, which the auditors suggest we should be at, and we can continue the service levels our citizens are currently getting, I feel that this is good,” he said.