In a series of actions Monday, the Georgetown City Council passed a 911 user fee, approved raises for all city employees, including first responders, and amended the city budget they approved just two months ago.
The 911 fee was approved unanimously, but not without some wrangling over a proposed amendment by Council member Karen Tingle-Sames. Tingle-Sames wanted an amendment to the bill that would guarantee the funds raised by the 911 user fee would be directed towards fire responder raises and not directed elsewhere in the years to come.
City attorney Devon Golden told the council such an amendment was illegal — the 911 user fees are legally required to be used exclusively for dispatch — and if such an amendment were attached the ordinance would be essentially a new bill and it would start over.
Tingle-Sames eventually agreed to a resolution that would be presented at the next council meeting.
The 911 user fee will start at $6 per month and will be included with the January bills from Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer System (GMWSS). In 2022, the 911 fee will increase to $7 per month and in 2023 the fee will increase to $8 and likely plateau, council members said. The 911 user fee will be only on the bills for GMWSS customers living within the Georgetown city limits.
The city is near an agreement with Kentucky American Water to have the fee included on bills for those living within the city limits that do not receive a bill from GMWSS.
The 911 user fee is expected to generate $565,362 over a nine-month period, said finance director Stacey Clark Some $1.2 million of the city’s general fund budget is designated for 911 Dispatch, including $734,000 for salaries. The revenue from the 911 user fee will replace those general fund expenses.
GMWSS will charge up to 7 percent to manage the billing and invoices.
Once the 911 user fee was approved, the council approved raises for city employees, including $5,000 annually for police officers and $6,000 for fire fighters. A survey conducted by the city comparing first responder salaries to 18 peer cities showed Georgetown’s police officers are underpaid by $8,600 and its firefighters are underpaid by $11,000.
The raises go in effect with the first paycheck in October. The annual cost of the raises will be about $1 million.
Each council member praised the actions taken and assured first responders it was just a first step.
In June, the city approved a budget that included a projected $4.4 million deficit due to the pandemic shutdowns. Since then the city has learned it is eligible for $2.4 million in reimbursements from the federal CARES Act related to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the meeting Monday, Mayor Tom Prather told the council the city has received $571,000 from the CARES Act, and he was confident the city would be able to receive its full $2.4 million allotment.
The CARES Act reimbursement will be used for first responder salaries, Prather said.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.