In planning for the 2019 budget year, the Crossett City Council voted Monday to give city employees a raise and to restructure some city departments.

The plan adopted also changes how the city will give raises in the future.

The matter of giving employee raises first came up over the summer, and since then a committee that included city department heads and members of the council came up with a plan in what Councilwoman Crystal Marshall described as “a collaborative effort.”

The key takeaway from Tuesday’s vote was that employees will receive a cost-of-living raise, but won’t receive future automatic raises. Instead, the plan makes future raises merit-based. Marshall said that under the plan, if employees receive raises will ultimately be the decision of their department heads following an annual review.

The plan likewise calls for department heads to write detailed job descriptions for each employee and have the employees sign off.

Public Works Director Jeff Harrison said that with his department, he will have employees fill out a self-evaluation, but will then compare their evaluation with one he does during the annual meeting.

“You would be surprised how honest they are,” Harrison said.

If an employee does not merit a raise, the evaluation, “will tell them where they need to be to get one next year,” he said.

“(I will) explain to them that this is not up to the city whether you get a pay raise, it is up to you.”

Police Chief J.W. Cruce said he plans to go through an initial evaluation with his employees within the first 30 days of the year, “so they will know where they stand.”

All of the department heads, including Fire Chief Bo Higginbotham, said their departments already have documentation procedures in place for employee review. Recreation Complex Director Larry Cantley said most of his employees are part-time and seasonal, and so would not qualify for a raise.

The plan also transitions supervisor to salaried rather than hourly positions, and dictates how comp time will be given to them and when they will be required to take it.

Department heads will no longer be legally entitled to comp time, though the plan as adopted allows that they can receive it “at the mayor’s discretion, but the city will not be financially responsible for it.”

The mayor will conduct the annual reviews of the department heads, except for the city treasurer, who will answer to the city clerk.

The second change of note was the plan included restructuring how some city departments work.

The Streets and Sanitation Department will be rolled into Public Works, and the street supervisor will be considered adjacent to the drainage and sewer supervisor. All will be answerable to the public works director.

The Clerk-Treasurer’s Office will be made a city department, and Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Lisa Gulledge will be named the department head, reporting directly to the City Clerk. The remaining deputy clerks will report to Gulledge as the department head.

Though she ultimately voted for the plan, Councilwoman Lynn Rodgers said she believed it would be better if the city would adopt a revised employee manual before granting the raises. She also said she would prefer if the employees would sign off on their job descriptions by April 1 rather than the plan’s initial target date of June 1.

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