Hurricane Battered Waveland Bumps Up City Salaries - - The News for South Mississippi

Hurricane Battered Waveland Bumps Up City Salaries

When Waveland leaders sat down to map out next year's budget, they saw a couple of encouraging signs. First, they noticed a sudden surge in sales tax revenue from Wal Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot. Then, they got a $3 million grant from the state to cover its operating costs. That provided Waveland enough of a financial security blanket to bump up employee salaries.

Kim Chetta may use the extra cash to rebuild her home on Fell Street.

"I thought about moving away," said the woman who lost her job as a city pier ranger during Katrina, but then became a city hall receptionist. "But we're going to give it one more try."

On Friday, the city of Waveland did its part to provide Chetta and her colleagues a glimmer of hope. Waveland aldermen approved next year's budget. A town still reeling from the after effects of Katrina found a way to fund employee pay raises.

"It means a great deal for me," said Chetta. "I have to rebuild my house. We lost everything."

Mayor Tommy Longo is thrilled to be able to help people like Chetta.

"Oh my God, these employees mean so much to me, because they've been what's kept the city going," he said.

According to Longo, 75 remaining employees will make about two dollars an hour more in their paychecks. That's about a $4,000 salary bump.

"First of all, they deserve that and much, much more," said the mayor.

After the hurricane, this Hancock County town adopted a new motto. It's "Waveland -- Rising Above the Storm." Mayor Longo says his city can do that only if it keeps its hard working employees. So city leaders had to come up with a way to offer Waveland workers competitive salaries, "because they have to rebuild homes with that same salary," the mayor said.

"It has to be more competitive, especially with the businesses coming in, their base pay has raised the bar. And we had to become more competitive to keep our employees."

Waveland is using a three million dollar state grant to pay its bills and increase its salaries. That should help employees like Kim Chetta remain with the city indefinitely.

"It's going to be a great help," she said.

The new budget, and the higher salaries take effect on October 1, 2006.

by Brad Kessie

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