GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Discussions about a pay raise began last year for employees of the City of Gulfport. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, that pay raise has now been suspended.
Back in September, we reported that city officials in Gulfport approved a pay raise for its 600 employees. Now, instead of furloughing or laying off those employees, Gulfport’s Chief Administrative Officer Dr. John Kelly says that the money, that was set aside for those raises, will now be used elsewhere.
“When we were preparing the 2021 budget, we really thought that we would be able to do something really good for our employees by giving a merit increase. The increase was to be from 1% up to 3% based on the employee’s performance," Kelly said. “We had gotten all of the evaluations out of the way and were ready to pull the trigger.
“Of course, we then had this pandemic that none of us expected. We just looked at it and said this is something we have to do. It is this or look at laying people off or giving furloughs. We don’t want to do any one of those things. So, as difficult as this was, we know that this is the right thing to do for our employees,” Kelly said. “We have some off the best employees in the entire country. They’re loyal, they’re dedicated, they show up every day and do what needs to be done.”
The coronavirus is the main reason that the highly-anticipated pay raises have been put on the back burner.
“As you can imagine, it’s having an impact on the City of Gulfport’s revenue, as it is every other business and government entity in the country. Depending on the year, 36-38% of our total revenue comes from sales taxes. With having businesses closing down, which is the right thing to do, and being partially opened, we understand that those businesses are not doing the robust business they were doing before this pandemic," Kelly said.
$500,000 was earmarked for this year and $1,000,000 for next year in pay raises. Kelly said that the city’s hard-working staff, 90% of which is still working, has been understanding.
“Our employees are absolutely incredible and, almost to a person, they’re taking this in stride. You know, this is a resilient community. We’ve had hurricanes, we’ve had oil spills, we’ve had recessions and we’ve bounced back from all of this. We’re a resilient community. We’ll bounce back from this," Kelly told WLOX.
The pay raises, however, are not completely out of the question.
“This was not an easy, or cavalier, decision to have to make. It was a very difficult one, but it was the right decision. As soon as the budget is stable, we’ll revisit this again. At the right time, we’ll make a recommendation that we move forward with it,” Kelly said.