BUCKHANNON – A municipal minimum wage of $10 for full time employees was proposed at the last city council meeting Thursday. Mayor David McCauley brought forth the proposal.
“My proposal tonight is that we adopt a minimum wage of full-time employees to $10 an hour,” McCauley said. “If Walmart can do it we can do it.”
The mayor said the increase would affect three employees that do not make at least $10 an hour. Councilman David Thomas motioned to open the proposal for discussion and it was seconded by Council member Mary Albaugh. Councilman Robbie Skinner wanted to clarify this raise would not remove a system to evaluate city employees.
“So last year we developed a rubric system to evaluate all of our city employees across the board in each department and it was up to some of us from council, as well as department heads to determine where they would be along in skill level, education, dedication and further training,” Skinner said. “I just want to clarify that this does not change that it just establishes that no one can go under $10 an hour.”
The mayor said this was true and clarified that only full-time employees would receive the minimum of $10 an hour and seasonal employees would still receive a minimum of $8.75.
Councilman CJ Rylands asked why the mandatory minimum is necessary.
“So if there are three employees that aren’t making $10 an hour why not just give them a raise and give the opportunity to start someone else that would stay at the federal mandated wages?” Rylands said.
“Without creating a base minimum for the city, I mean is the next step to say ‘well since the city is doing it, all businesses should be paying $10 an hour?’”
The mayor said this would only affect the 85 staff members employed by the City of Buckhannon.
“Which in reality would only affect three people?” Rylands said. “If you haven’t given them a raise to this point I would ask, I mean if you are going to pay someone more they should be accepting more responsibility or some other increasing capacity. I don’t understand why. Is the intention to say we are generous?”
McCauley said, “The intention is a person working a 2,080 hours full-time is going to make $20,800 a year and the national poverty level is about $6,000 more than that per year.”
Rylands said he didn’t say the employees do not deserve a raise.
“I’m not saying they don’t deserve it but why haven’t they gotten it up to this point?” Rylands asked. “What is restricting them from rising up in the current system?”
McCauley said the discussion of wage increases had not come up since 2016.
“Number two, we are just now entering into the yearly employment evaluations of our employees and whatever would be adopted, if relative to any merit pay raises would not be effective until the next fiscal year July 1, 2019,” McCauley said. “So we are talking about giving three employees a $1 or 50 cent bump.”
Rylands said people who are already making $10 an hour have more responsibilities.
“So when you give this person a 50 cent raise and the person that is currently making $10 an hour is now on the same par, but has higher levels of responsibility then that person deserves 50 cents more an hour,” Rylands said.
McCauley said any other raises would be discussed at evaluations for employees. Skinner said he was worried about any precedents this would set.
“My only concern is, does this set a precedent?” Skinner said. “So $10 this year, does it become $15 in two years? Does it become $18 in three years? I mean I can hear where CJ is coming from because if three employees are under $10 an hour then something is inhibiting them from being looked at by their supervisors.”
McCauley said the three employees this would impact are fairly new and have only been with the city for a little less than a year.
Skinner asked if this proposal had to be resolved that night.
“Do we have to do this tonight? Can we have some more discussion on this and do some more research? We’ve done a lot tonight and I’m a little tired, can we just do this next time?” Skinner said.
Before discussing the proposal, the city council had finished voting on Ordinance 428 Properties Declared a Public Nuisance and Ordinance 430 Residential Parking around West Virginia Wesleyan College and was already over two hours into the meeting.
David Thomas motioned to table the proposal and discuss itat the Nov. 15 city council meeting and the motion was seconded by Skinner.
The motion to table was passed.