BY KYNLI SMITH
The town of Basin approved the 2016-2017 budget last Tuesday night during a special meeting.
The town budget is similar to last year’s fiscal budget, and again like last year, no town employee received a raise, with the exception of one town employee whose raise was tied to a promotion.
“I think our pay to our employees is deplorable,” said Councilman Roger Stickney. Since it had been years since employees last received a raise, he added that he hopes in the future to hopefully find a way to give town employees a raise.
He also noted how surrounded towns pay their town employees significantly higher than the town of Basin currently does.
After looking at five different towns, Stickney said that the Basin police chief is $5.87 below the hourly average and that the town clerk is $4.44 below the average.
“I think working our chief of police that far under the average of five towns around is just not the way to go,” said Stickney. “I know we can’t correct it 100 percent but I think we need to come up with some kind of a plan over a period of time where we can make it right.”
“We can’t run the town in the hole because then they won’t have a job, period,” said Councilmen Brent Godfrey. He added if they brought everyone up to par with other towns, they might have to lay off employees to do so.
“At this point in time I think we better ride it another year because where are we going to get the money from?” said Mayor Dennis Peters. “It is not that I don’t think people deserve it.
For the second year in a row, the council said no to raises of the town police officers. Back in April, when the town started looking into this year’s budget, Basin Police Chief Chris Kampbell purposed three different options for the police budget.
The first option allows for three full-time officers with an estimated budget of $131,040. With this option, there would be an increase in the overtime line item due to vacation, sick, training and emergency leave from work.
The second option allows for four full-time officers with an estimated budget of $167,648 and would increase flexibility of scheduling and unforeseen emergency absences. It would also have the least amount of overtime and would allow for more officers on the street and available for emergencies.
Option three would allow for three full-time officers and one part-time officer with an estimated cost of $149,344. It would provide some flexibility of schedule. The part-time position would cover shifts when others are not available. The one drawback is the part-time officer would need to be certified within two years of hire. Kampbell recommends hiring a certified officer for the part-time position.
The council approved $132,120 for the police salaries, which was more than Option 1 proposal of $131,040. However, the council did not approve raises for the police officers.
“This is the first time I have heard those raises have been removed from the budget,” said Kampbell. “That is disappointing.”
Kampbell also clarified with the council that they were saying to hire a part time officer would not cost us any more money than to give these officers a raise.
“In the budget right now we returned more than 10 percent of our budget. I don’ think there is another department in town that has done that. You are asking us to do more with less and we’ll do it. We will sit down and we will do it.”
Kampbell added that the department will not get a new police car that was estimated to cost $16,000 or hire a part-time officer with an estimated cost of $16,000 to make the raises work and return money into the town’s general fund.
“That line item for salaries is higher than I requested; I wasn’t requesting that money,” said Kampbell said. “When you changed it back to the previous year you changed it back to a higher number I was requesting.”
According to Kampbell, about 12-13 percent is estimated to be put back into the town’s general fund.
“The money that is there right now will pay for raises for those officers. You don’t have to add any money; it is in the budget right now,” said Kampbell.
The council asked Town Clerk Dani Chapman how the money Kampbell requested is lower than what he received.
“When I put in the requested raises it didn’t raise his budget, but I was told by the council to take that out and put it back to the way it was last year and that is what it reflected.”
“If the money is there and you want to spend it spend it, but when you run out of money you are done,” said Godfrey.
“I understand that Brent,” said Kampbell. “You guys have given me more money than I asked for and at the end of the year there will be $20,000 left in there that will be turned back into the town.”
“If you can give these guys raises with the budget you got, go for it, but I’m not going to go in and do an emergency transfer in the middle of the year because the police department runs into three or four major cases and a whole bunch of overtime or loses a car,” said Godfrey.
“We have talked I don’t know how many times for years that raises for all the employees,” said councilmen Bill Stoelk. “So if you allow them to do that, then you are going to end up with a personnel problem. You would just open a new can of worms with other departments saying we don’t need this money; we want a raise. It could get really ugly.”
According to Kampbell, the department has returned around $125,000 to the town’s general fund over the last three years.
During a budget workshop meeting last Monday night, the council went into executive session to discuss the open public works director position. When the council came out of the session they decided to fill the position and appoint Steve Vanderploeg as the new public works director.
The director position has not been filled in about five years, according to the council.
The council did not describe this as a raise for the employee, but did state that he would be making more an hour do to his new responsibilities. He will receive a few dollars per hour in-crease in pay.
The council stated that the new public works director would supervise water, utility, clerk/treasurer and municipal court.
Mayor Peters said after the meeting that the council would have to look into and work on change the current public works director position duties and change the chain of command for the town. Currently the public works director does not supervise utility, clerk/treasurer and municipal court, but only supervises over the town crew and water/wastewater operator.
The council said the town needed a public works director after five years of being vacant to help with “accountability.”
“If you don’t have leadership you don’t have anything,” said Stoelk.
The council added that Vanderploeg is the most experienced person on staff that they have.