BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "I think it was exorbitant at that time, and I still think it's exorbitant," says Mayor A.J. Holloway, Biloxi.
The mayor says the numbers say it all. A pay raise that once cost the city $430,000 will rise to nearly $1.2 million starting next year. City workers will now earn $15.00 a month instead of $6.00 in longevity pay. But, the mayor says with dips in sales and gaming revenue, the city can't afford the raise.
"At at time when everybody in the whole planet is making cuts and laying off, the city of Biloxi is giving out extra money. It doesn't make sense to me," says Mayor Holloway.
But, that's not how Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick sees it.
"If you take look at our budget this year it has between a seven and ten million dollar ending cash balance. That budget includes all the raises that we gave to employees, plus longevity," says Fitzpatrick.
To offset the raise for workers, Fitzpatrick says the city has options.
"Our ad valorem tax is going to be way up because of the property re-appraisal, so our income is not going down in the city of Biloxi right now," says Fitzpatrick.
But, Councilman Tom Wall, who voted against the raise, says if the money is there, why should the city have to rely on its emergency fund to help pay for the raise. Plus, he says workers have already received a flat $6100.00 dollar pay increase outside of longevity pay.
"They (councilman who supported it) were trying to make sure we didn't lose any employees to another city. But, we're so much higher than many of the other cities anyway in pay and benefits," says Councilman Wall.
But, Councilman Fitzpatrick says considering the workers' overall low pay scale, the raise was the right thing to do.
"This council's looking out for our employees and trying to retain them," says Fitzpatrick.
The mayor, however, still says this plan comes at a cost.