Last updated: July 25. 2013 9:04AM - 226 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth City Council passed an ordinance Monday that would give non-bargaining unit employees an extra week of vacation to bring them up with union personnel.

For example, members of the AFSCME Local 1039 bargaining unit receive 15 work days of vacation after one year of service. That amount increases to 20 days at five years service, 25 days at 10 years, and 30 days after 15 years. Non-Bargaining unit employees with the same years of service receive five work days less for each range of vacation time, and accumulation ends at the 10-year level. The increase would be for a total of 14.

“As it is, this ordinance only affects department heads and immediate administrative assistants and our city clerk,” First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson said. “It’s a very small population, and it’s only fair to bring them up to the standards that we presented to the 99.9 something percent of our other employees.”

Portsmouth Mayor David Malone reviewed the timeline.

“We wanted to do this right after all the union contracts were negotiated, and ratified by Council, before we brought this forward,” Malone said. “I think Mr. Auditor’s union was the last contract that was ratified, and I think it was back in January or February. And so we wanted it to take affect in 2013 as well.”

President of Council Steve Sturgill disagreed with the process.

“This is still no way to solve this issue,” Sturgill said. “We’re going to be dealing with some stuff after this meeting is over in the Mayor’s Conference, trying to come up with some more money for fireman overtime. If we’ve only got 14 people now that we’re concerned about, why don’t we take a look at trying to find a way to increase the wages of these 14 people, and do this the proper way. If we’re having to come back for another $40,000 for fire for overtime — this is the beginning of May — they’re certainly going to come back again. We were trying to play this off as, there’s a balanced budget that we’re trying to protect. And I think we can all agree, there is no balanced budget, probably never was one.”

Malone spoke up and told Sturgill Council did pass a balanced budget.

“We passed a balanced budget, but we didn’t put all the costs in there,” Sturgill said.”This is the third or fourth time this has come up, but to me this is not the way to handle it. We need to sit down and talk about these 14 people, and figure out what it’s going to cost to bring them into line with what we think their positions are worth.”

Sturgill said, after coming up with salary increases, Council could try again to balance the budget.

“If not, we’d better hope our revenues increase, because our balanced budget is not going to survive the next time police, and probably fire, come back in here for overtime,” Sturgill said.

“I understand all the theories behind the ordinance, but if we’ve got an issue with our employees, with vacations and salaries, pay raises not being given for some time, let’s not rush in to just say, ‘here’s a bandaid,’” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “Lets sit back and start fixing the overall problem. It’s a budgetary process, and it needs to be dealt with. You can’t wait until October or November to put a budget together and think you’re going to fix it. The problem needs to start being fixed in January for the following year. So we’re behind now already fixing this problem. Employees need to be treated properly, but let’s do it the right way.”

When the vote was taken, it passed 4-2 with Meadows and Sturgill voting against the measure.

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

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