Mayor breaks tie as Natchez council gives nearly $20K in pay raises to three employees

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier said the city’s aldermen need a pay increase, and he made a motion to that end at Tuesday’s meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

However, Frazier’s motion died for lack of a second.

Frazier’s motion was perhaps tongue in cheek, as he voted no to three measures seeking a pay increase for three city employees.

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“We are sitting here giving raises, why not give aldermen raises,” Frazier said.

Mayor Dan Gibson was called upon to break tie votes in motions for raises for the three employees, and he voted in the affirmative.

The aldermen in an executive session at the board’s last meeting discussed the pay increases. However, after that session, no action was taken because the board lacked the employee number of each, which is necessary to protect an employee’s identity from the public.

When a motion was made to grant a 4 percent raise, which amounts to approximately $4,000 additional per year, to city employee number 301905 retroactive to Oct. 1, Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said it’s too soon in the fiscal year to grant pay increases to employees.

“From a financial standpoint, these would be reoccurring expenses and we need to see if we can sustain them. My opinion is we need to wait until the second quarter,” Dillard said.

He also complained that the city’s department heads are not being properly held accountable for their responsibilities.

“When you look at financial increases for administrators and department heads, we should do a departmental review and look at how they have been managing. We should know what their needs at, what are their projections, where are they taking the department. There should be a more professional approach in how we compensate these individuals…and how well department heads manage their resources,” Dillard said.

Frazier said he supported Dillard’s opinion.

Aldermen Valencia Hall, Sarah Carter Smith and Ben David voted in favor of the motion to grant the employee a 4 percent raise. Frazier, Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving and Dillard voted nay, ending in a 3-3 tie.

In breaking the tie, Gibson said the pay increase for this employee and others given were necessary for the city to retain good employees.

“I believe one of the most valuable investments any business and government can make is in its employees. We have so much taking place in our city. I don’t want us to stand by and allow certain employees’ salaries to not be kept competitive. I break the tie and the motion carries,” Gibson said.

The same vote came about for employee number 303009 for a motion to approve a $10,000 annual pay increase retroactive to Oct. 1, and employee number 302988, for a $5,000 annual pay increase retroactive to Oct. 1.

On the motion to increase the pay for employee number 303009, Bridgewater-Irving complained information she needed more information that has not been provided to her about the employee.

“I would like to see that our department heads follow the hiring process through. I have seen great things happen in the department, but we have not followed through,” she said. “We have to hold people accountable.”

Frazier said the issue of the pay increase for this employee was not settled during the executive session.

“I’m not against anyone getting a raise, but we hadn’t really settled on that issue. We never did discuss this issue in executive session. That was supposed to come back to us,” he said.

When the vote was called on each of the two employees, the result was the same 3-3 tie.

Gibson again decided each in the affirmative.

“We have had discussions, a number of discussions in executive session as the law allows. These items have been discussed and very, very good results have been discussed,” he said. “I have made the statement that the most valuable investment a business or city can make is in talent to keep the city or keep the business moving forward and that is what we have been doing during this administration. We just saw the effects of a pay raise given to our police officers two weeks ago. And, at times, during this discussion, we weren’t sure we were going to get an affirmative result. But we did, and as a result, we have already see the return of several officers.”

At the beginning of the meeting, the mayor swore in eight new Natchez police officers, four who recently graduated from the police academy, and four veteran officers.