Councilmen looking for money to pay City Manager salary

By Frank Lewis

October 12, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

President of Portsmouth City Council Steve Sturgill said Council is in the process of looking at several options as they consider how they will pay the $105,000 annual salary for newly-named city manager Derek Allen.

“We have been giving that quite a bit of consideration,” Sturgill said. “Obviously we understand that it’s quite a bit more than we have been paying to the chief executive officer of the city.”

The city has been paying Mayor David Malone $59,600 annually.

“We will be looking at all of our accounts as we head toward the end of the year,” Sturgill said. “I’ve been assured by the City Auditor that we will have a balance into 2014, so that will help. We’re going to have to take a very good look at our financial situation, try to figure out exactly where we are, and obviously, it could be an issue.”

Sturgill said he does want to reiterate that Council has tried to do what the people wanted in terms of the new City Manager.

“The people wanted a professional in this office, and the cost of a professional was going to cost us more than the way we’ve done the mayor for the last 20 years,” Sturgill said. “These are things we talked about during 2012. We had a small debate about how we were going to afford this. But we realize that there’s an issue. We’re hoping that there will be money available and it’s something that we will deal with in the budget committee as well as making recommendations to City Council about the best way to proceed with our financial situation into 2014.”

Sturgill said he has yet to have been contacted by the Auditor of State’s office on a conversation he had planned to have with that office to talk about the city’s financial issues. Sturgill said he is awaiting information on the city’s practice of charging off using funds from revenue accounts for the operation of other offices. The city ended up paying money back to some accounts, which expanded the city’s deficit budget at a time when the city could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The state had objected to the city’s not having a methodology in place to explain their reason for charge offs.

First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson agrees that there are several avenues the city can consider when trying to come up with a way to pay the new city manager.

“We have done one heck of a lot better this year on our income,” Johnson said. “Between the two rather large checks from Worker’s Comp, and we got a lot more in Estate Taxes that we didn’t anticipate. And that has translated into being able to pay for the (city manager). Remember, late last year, as we were working on the budget, the Municipal Court agreed to lend us the money for the (city manager) search. I think the budget was $36,000. That was built into our budget because we just didn’t have it in the General Fund. Our General Fund has done well enough that we didn’t have to borrow that money, and I think we’re going to be all right. We can find $50,000 if we need to.”

Sturgill said the effort to make everything work is ongoing.

“We have thought about it a great deal. We know that it’s an issue,” Sturgill said. “But the bottom line is that we have got to find a way to make the finances work.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.