On Wednesday July 22 at about 3 p.m., the News-Graphic asked city hall to distribute the following email to all council members. The five council members below responded and we have included their entire response. There was no response from council members Karen Tingle-Sames, Polly Singer Eardley or Marvin Thompson.
I have interviewed Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse about the police department being short staffed and with the pay inequalities. During the interview he made the following statement:
“It would be helpful if the city council would take an open vote and write it down: ‘we can’t do anything right now, but as soon as we can we will address the pay issues within the police department.’
Are you willing to take such a vote? Please explain your answer. If you don’t want to respond, please say so, but that will be included in the article.
My email is: email@example.com
I’m writing the story for the Friday edition, so I would appreciate your answer by 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Sorry for the quick turnaround, but I’m on a deadline.
Thanks for all you do,
Below are the entire answers from those council members who responded:
I would like to try and explain my individual opinion on this below subject.
As you most likely already know, Georgetown city government just started a new budget year on July 1, 2020. This budget will run from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
The mayor of this city, our city finance director, our city council finance committee and the other six members of our city council are anticipating that the city could potentially face up to a $4.4 million dollar shortfall in revenue over the next 12 months. While we hope that this will not be the case, I believe that we are trying to be fiscally responsible with Georgetown city taxpayer money.
In addition, we just Completed our 2019/2020 budget year on June 30, 2020. We ended up having to take approximately $1.4 million dollars out of our Georgetown city government savings account in order to be able to pay for the revenue shortfall, as a result of a pandemic that hit earlier this year.
As a result of this pandemic that really hit earlier this year, there has been a shortfall in several important city revenue streams, as a result of companies/businesses/restaurants that have been either temporarily or permanently closed. Unemployment levels also remain higher than normal.
There not only has been pain for Georgetown city government over the past 4 to 5 months, but there has also been pain for our Georgetown city employees, and there has been pain for Georgetown city taxpayers.
I honestly believe that if this pandemic had not hit earlier this year, that there truly was a plan that was going to allow us to have further discussion on the direction that some of us feel is needed, in order to continue to move this city forward.
Every single Georgetown city employee is important to me. All of our city employees are truly the backbone of this city.
We are truly fortunate to have the leadership that this city has in all of our city departments. They have been a rock, they have been positive, and they have been able to help hold things together during the good and bad times.
I believe we can do better.
I believe we will do better.
My commitment is that I am for addressing salaries for all city employees. There are some who just seem like they’re against everything. For those who are against everything, what are you for?
I would vote and put it on paper. I want the employees to have the raises and the longevity steps put in place so that we will reward employees for staying with the city. Whether it’s the police, fire, dispatch, or public works. We have to take care of them or we will continue to be a training ground for other agencies and departments.
The statements that Karen and Polly spoke about giving the police something, I have been on the receiving end of those raises with the city. All that does is put the employees into a higher tax bracket and cost the employees, so they lose more money than they gain.
I’ve already stated publicly to the community, to the police department, to other first responders and all city employees that addressing pay was a priority for me and I feel certain it’s a priority for most other council members as well. The reality is our revenue needs to increase to make this happen. As you know Mayor Prather and his staff, the finance committee and the city council had been working on a comprehensive study and plan to address some of our revenue shortfalls for several months. This plan was teed up and ready to present when COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks just before we could get anything voted on.
The budget process is always a challenging process but especially when you’re faced with a pandemic and significant revenue shortfalls. Fortunately some of the early revenue forecasting didn’t play out as bad as anticipated and we expect to receive CARES funding which could reduce our deficit below $2 million for the 2020/2021 budget year compared to earlier estimates of a $6 million shortfall.
I don’t recall Karen or Polly making any recommendations or proposing anything to address this issue of compensation in the months, weeks, days or even hours prior to our second reading of the budget ordinance. I feel like those that supported the budget supported our employees and services offered by the city.
The short answer to your question is yes.
I am a huge supporter of all our first responders. I have the utmost respect for them all. As council member sitting on the finance committee, I saw first-hand the commitment we all had in looking at revenue sources to address all city employees’ salaries.
The finance committee was on the verge of submitting a recommendation to the council addressing salaries across the board including making the police departments salaries more equitable and more appealing to attract more trained officers to join our police department. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything came to a screeching halt. No one could have predicted this coming. The mayor submitted a bare bone budget to the finance committee eliminating all salary increases plus numerous other things.
We knew we were going to have to use the fund balance to help balance the budget. We as the finance committee went back to mayor and asked him to put things back into the budget, such as seven new police vehicles verses 17, we asked for training for the police department to be put back in, training for the fire department and line items for maintenance for our facilities the right way instead of putting a band-aid on them or ignoring the maintenance issues all together.
Also addressing the parks and rec, and Pavillion as they have been hit the hardest. Most everything was put back that we asked for, and we made a promise to continue to monitor the revenue sources coming in and address the salaries as soon as it looked to be permitted. Stacey, the finance director has done an outstanding job in predicting revenue coming in very conservatively. We are moving forward, cautiously but with promise and it looks hopeful.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your conversation with Chief Bosse.
I am happy to make public my support of addressing the pay issues within the police department. I am a member of the police committee and am convinced that there are salary and head count needs that must be addressed. Were it not for the current economic realities surrounding the Coronavirus, I would have supported steps to address these issues within the current budget.
I am committed to re-evaluating the current budget and making changes to it as soon as the economic situation stabilizes.
Tammy Lusby Mitchell