Council Defers Budget Vote-Workers Push for Raise - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Council Defers Budget Vote-Workers Push for Raise

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With District 3's Ken Smith away on vacation, the Chattanooga City Council delayed action on the city budget Tuesday night. It appears his vote is not needed to pass the proposal, but they all want to be counted in the likely approval of the $216 million spending plan.

Some city employees are not ready to admit defeat in their quest for a better pay raise in the next fiscal year. "We're having to work two jobs," said city worker Tom Slaten. "Some people, I don't see how they do it, but some people work three just to make ends meet."

Slaten was among many, prepared again, to make their point that a 1½% across the board bump for a second year, is just not acceptable. "And what's a shame on that, too, is the people that make the most get the most and the people that need it the most get the least and that's unfair," he added.

A veteran of 22 years with the city, Slaten lost his wife in 2007 and has had to make his way on just his income. "2008, 2009, 2010 was okay," he explained. "Then 2011, we all know gasoline went up 200%, food has gone up and is still going up, but we just haven't had any cost of living increase, whatsoever, in those years."

The council has promised to work on a more comprehensive solution in the coming months.

Robert Hart, city employee and member of the local Service Employees International Union made an impassioned plea in the public comment portion of the meeting. "I don't feel the least bit cynical or guilty for expecting the taxpayers of this city to pay wages, a living wage, to keep the services that everyone wants running," he said.

Arguing that second and third jobs keep parents away from their children, Hart said, taxpayer money is spent on everything else. "We have asked them for rent, for rent for art enrichment tools, to buy art," he added. "We've asked them to give millions to corporations in the name of helping our local economy, but the biggest asset we've overlooked is our people."

If the issue has to wait until the next budget cycle, Slaten said, "Well, we hope not, but if that should happen, we pray that they will do something better next year."

Second and final vote on the new budget should come next Tuesday, June 24th. That is the same day the council will have its first hearing on capital spending.

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