CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- City of Charleston employees will get a surprise mid-year pay raise, thanks to a budget surplus and an improving economy, City Council members agreed Monday.
The 3 percent increase, effective next week, is the first across-the-board pay raise for city employees since July 1, 2009. It affects all full-time staff, including police and firefighters, except for elected officials, City Manager David Molgaard said.
The pay raise was Mayor Danny Jones' idea, Molgaard said. "We believe we have a very good crew. Unfortunately they've had to suffer, as has everybody, in the recessionary times.
"It still doesn't catch them up. This by no means puts them where they'd be before the downturn since July 2009."
Civic Center and parking system employees will also get similar pay raises, as part of a series of budget amendments council members passed Monday.
"Every year at about this time we program money left on the books from last [fiscal] year," Molgaard said.
Nearly $3.4 million of unspent funds were "encumbered," and remain in designated accounts for future use -- $700,000 in a city manager's account for professional services, $1 million for legal claims, almost $1 million for storm-water engineering. The city manager's account could be used to redesign Slack Plaza or for the new Holley Hotel site project, Molgaard said.
"We had just over $1.2 million remaining," he said. The pay raises will cost about $750,000, and another $400,000 will go toward paying down the unfunded balances in the police and firefighters pension funds.
Revenues are also up, Molgaard said, especially the business and occupation tax -- the single largest source of money for the city.
"B&O collections are up more than 9 percent over last year at this time, and 4 percent over what we budgeted," he said.
Jones shared credit for the pay raise plan, and cited Molgaard's "good stewardship of our finances. If we don't pay these people, they're going to go somewhere else."
In other business Monday, council members agreed to redirect $2.2 million previously saved for the Kanawha Trestle project to a new plan to build a dual bike lane along Kanawha Boulevard on the West Side. The money includes a $1.78-million earmark from the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and $444,600 of matching funds from the city.