The city of Newberry passed its final budget and millage on Monday with a slight amendment to its employee compensation plan and $30,000 dedicated to a stormwater assessment plan.
“We work with a great team that hear what you are asking for,” City Manager Mike New told the commission after thanking the city staff, “and most of the things that we do now in our budget process are things that we’ve picked up from our commission… it occurred to me that growth that we’ve experienced in the last five years, while uncomfortable at times, and while people are critical of it at times, it’s allowing us to do some of the things that the community wants and that the commissioners have been asking us to do for a number of years.”
The new 5.900 millage rate is Newberry’s second property tax reduction in two years, but it is expected to bring in about 10% more than last year’s 5.9244 rate. To equal the same revenue, Newberry’s rollback rate would be 5.381, but assistant city manager Dallas Lee told the commission that the amount of new homes and businesses made it possible to have a lower rate than last year while making more money.
Newberry’s 2023-24 fiscal year budget is $43,167,065. After the commission voted down two projects at its last meeting, the city was left with an extra $150,000 to work with. Upon Lee’s recommendation, $75,000 will be used to adjust city employee compensation, $30,000 will go toward the stormwater assessment and the remaining $45,000 will go into the city’s contingency funds.
In the same meeting, Newberry approved utility rates that, while they all rose by varying percentages, remain the lowest in the county. Staff made one small adjustment, lowering residential water rates and raising nonresidential water rates, to bridge the five-cent gap between Newberry and Alachua rates, keeping Newberry’s rates lower.
The commission also approved a new compensation plan for city employees in FY23-24. Using $75,000 that otherwise would have gone to a cemetery fence or a wage study in addition to the existing cost of living adjustments already budgeted, the city will give the highest pay increases to employees who are at the bottom of the pay scale.
After looking into living wage numbers for the county, staff came up with proposed wages to make sure city employees receive a living wage.
Employees who currently earn less than $18 per hour will be bumped to either $18/hour or a 5% raise, whichever is greater. Those who earn less than $20/hour will be raised to $20/hour or 5%, whichever is greater. Anyone earning $20-30/hour will get a 4% raise, and $30-40/hour will get a 3% raise and anyone making over $40/hour will get a 2% raise, which is essentially the same as a standard cost of living adjustment, according to Lee.
Directly before that vote, the commission voted 4-1 to remove the option for cost-of-living raises for certain senior employees who recently received a 7% raise for attending a training.
Four commissioners were split on whether to keep or get rid of the extra raise at the last meeting in Commissioner Mark Clark’s absence, so the topic was tabled until this week. Commissioner Tony Mazon was the only remaining supporter of keeping the raise, saying it was a recognition of the extra work the employees had put in to educate themselves and do better at their jobs.
“I’m not trying to hold nobody back,” Clark said. “We put money in the budget for education, and that’s what it’s for. So what people got, they got. But my expectation was to get the people at the bottom up, and you’re doing that and I appreciate that.”