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Pay raises generate discussion
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McMinnville officials accepted on first read a budget for fiscal year 2015-16. It includes no tax increase, a 3 percent raise for employees, and donations to nonprofits.
The measure was passed unanimously by Mayor Jimmy Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman and Aldermen Jimmy Bonner, Mike Neal, Ryle Chastain, Steve Harvey and Everett Brock.
Newman asked when the discussion was held to give employees a 3 percent raise. 
 “I know I missed some of the committee meetings prior to the Finance Committee meeting, but it wasn’t brought up during Finance that we were doing the wage increase,” said Newman.
Brock, who is Finance Committee chairman, says he failed to mention the increase when Finance met to review the budget. However, it was mentioned during prior committee meetings.
Neal asked, “Where did the 3 percent come from?”
Brock stated, “It came from us putting in 3 percent.”
“I’m like Ben, I don’t remember us discussing this,” said Neal. “I don’t remember it ever being talked about. I don’t remember any committee meeting where it was mentioned.”
Newman says the amount could be too high.
“I took a look at the consumer price index from May 2014 to May 2015 and it really stayed flat,” Newman said. “It went up .2 percent and .3 percent. In January it went down .7 percent. I bring that up because sometimes it’s good to tie what we increase our salaries to something. If you want to base it on merit and you think everyone’s done a good job, then give a little more. If the cost of goods that people are spending their money on hasn’t gone up but .4 percent, then I don’t know if that standing alone would be good to give a 3 percent increase.”
Using a national average to determine what local employees should get as a raise isn’t something Brock wants to do.
“I would hate to use a national average and another thing, we do not give merit raises,” he said. “Maybe we should be looking at something to base it on, but I really would hate to base it on a national average that may apply to here or might not apply to here.”
Newman added, “I understand what you’re saying that it’s not a good idea to base it on a national average, but I think the cost of gas has gone down, the cost for energy has gone down, a lot of things have gone down. When those things go down, the cost of goods might not go down but they don’t increase at the level they used to. I just don’t want to always give 3 percent across the board when maybe it’s not necessary to do so.”
In 2014, employees were given a 2.5 percent increase. In 2013, employees were give a $1,400 annual salary adjustment.
“We’ve gotten a long ways down the road to be changing this,” said Brock. “Going forward, I would be more than happy to try to find something to tie this to.”
The budget must pass one more read. The next regular session is July 28.