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Preliminary okay given for COLA hike by board

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

Platte City's Board of Aldermen gave preliminary approval to a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employee salaries in the upcoming budget year.

The information was presented by Jason Metten, city administrator. Metten said the effort is an annual budget objective.

According to Metten, because of the recession the inflation rate is higher, which means that the consumer price index is higher this year and forces the cost of living increase higher based on the mathematical formula.

Metten said this is difficult since the city is expecting to take in less money from sales tax.

The COLA for 2009 would be 2.3 percent and would result in an increase in salaries for employees of Platte City of $30,888 total, according to information provided by Metten.

“I realize we all know the dollar is worth less today, but I don't know if I feel comfortable looking at an increase at this time,” said Aaron Jung, alderman. “Money is tight right now. If the money is there, then by all means we can give a COLA.”

“Is this mandated?” asked Tony Paolillo, board president. “The easiest controllable expense is salaries. I would like to pay our employees more, but I don't want to raise taxes to pay someone more.”

Andy Stanton, alderman, said he thinks the city's employees are “fairly well paid” and would rather see the COLA brought up every three years instead of every year.

Frank Offutt, mayor, said that by granting preliminary approval, then staff would see if the COLA could be worked into the budget. Offutt said there was a time when the city's pay model was not in line with surrounding communities.

Jung asked if the COLA was connected to merit increases in pay.

Metten said the two are separate and merit pay is based on the quality of work of an employee, while the COLA is based on the value of the dollar.

Metten said that because of state legislation, the city will have very little wiggle room on the city's tax levy and staff is expecting a decrease in sales tax revenue.

In a memo to the board, Metten recommended approval of the COLA for employees. Metten also noted, “What has been recommended is fair but we have yet to determine if it can be afforded. It may be necessary to revisit the COLA increases during the budget adoption process.”

The board granted preliminary approval for the COLA with a vote of 4-2. Aldermen Stanton and Jung voted against the approval.



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