Greg Comstock of Alpharetta took this photo of the first day of Spring 2019 in the recently re-developed downtown of Alpharetta. "I have watched the re-development of the core of downtown Alpharetta over the last seven years. This shot was taken at 7 a.m. March 20 2019 on the plaza just as the sun was rising. The City Hall can be seen in the background," he wrote.

Despite tight budget, Alpharetta awards raises to city employees

Facing a tighter budget due to the pandemic, Alpharetta postponed and nearly canceled a merit pay increase for all city employees, proposing a one-time bonus instead. But Mayor Jim Gilvin and City Council reconsidered and voted to provide the 3% raise, plus a bonus that compensates for the delay.

The raise and bonus together will cost the city $1.25 million in the upcoming budget. Council members approved a 3% merit raise a year ago not anticipating tax revenue losses caused by the state’s shelter-in-place order that shuttered businesses. 

The pay increase was scheduled to start on April 1, but will now begin July 1, the start of fiscal year 2021. Staff who receive the raise will also get a bonus that makes up for the three months of delay. Both will be awarded based on job performance reviews.

City officials said a reduction in daily operational costs would help to fund the pay increase for city workers. Alpharetta City Council approved a balanced budget for fiscal year 2021 totaling $140 million.

City Council approved the pay raise during their Monday meeting. Alpharetta could afford the pay raise in the new the fiscal year, officials said, but economic uncertainty had made the mayor reluctant to have the city commit to raises in future years. A one-time merit bonus would’ve been a compromise, Gilvin said during the City Council meeting held on June 1.

Some residents and council members pushed back on that idea saying the city should demonstrate appreciation for the city’s first responders who have faced the threat of contracting coronavirus and have also responded to protests that began following the deaths of two Black men.

Police, fire and 911 communications account for more than half of the city’s 422 full-time employees. The city employs 157 in the police department and 911 communications, and 99 in the fire department.

“We’ve spent time worrying about our police officers, making sure you all feel loved and the morale there,” Councilman Jason Binder said. “We’ve also been staying up nights concerned to make sure that all of our employees will be taken care of … to make sure that we won’t have to do any furloughs.”

Alpharetta currently has a hiring freeze. Before the pandemic, six new full time positions were included in the 2021 budget. A statement from the city said the positions will remain vacant until a funding source becomes available and there is pressing work that justifies hiring.

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