By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A last-ditch effort by an outgoing town councilman to give Front Royal staff a better raise failed Monday.
But another councilman stepped in with an offer to help town employees by doubling the one-time bonus proposed in the next fiscal budget.
Front Royal Town Council at its meeting approved the ordinance appropriating the funds as delinated in the fiscal 2013 budget proposed by Town Manager Steven Burke.
Members approved an amendment to the ordinance proposed by Councilman N. Shae Parker which called for $60,200 moved from the balances of various funds and put into a reserve contingency for use in the near future to fund a master officer and senior dispatcher program in the police department.
Parker's amendment spurred some discussion about the funds proposed for the two programs. Parker noted $400 would come from a fund used to buy shirts for council members. The amendment passed 4-2, with Councilman Hollis L. Tharpe and Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway voted against it.
"Surely, you aren't going to vote against this because of $200 shirts for the council," Conkey said.
Conkey offered an amendment to the ordinance proposing the town raise the salary increase for employees from 1 percent to 2 percent. Conkey noted the 1 percent increase for workers would be absorbed by the mandated contribution to the Virginia Retirement System. A 1 percent raise would cost the town about $140,000 and Conkey suggested council take from the fund balance $295,000 to cover double the increase in salary.
Councilman Thomas Sayre agreed that workers deserved compensation but expressed concern over increasing the salaries or one-time bonuses without having first vetted Conkey's suggestions in the months before the scheduled vote. Council spent several months discussing the proposed budget through various work sessions and held the public hearing on the fiscal plan earlier this month.
Conkey noted that he only just thought of the idea to try and boost the proposed salary increase.
Parker, seeing that Conkey's amendment might not pass, made his own offer -- to double the one-time bonuses in the budget for full-time and part-time workers from $500 and $250 to $1,000 and $500 respectively. Conkey's proposed amendment failed 3-3, with Sayre, Tharpe and Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. voting against the measure.
The vote came after Sayre accused Conkey of trying to "grab headlines" with his last-minute effort to get raises for employees. Conkey refuted the accusation, noting that he has limited time left in his term on council. Conkey did not run for re-election this year. His term ends June 30.
The budget included no increase in the real estate or personal property tax for the town.
Mayor Timothy Darr did not attend the meeting.