COOPER — City Council has approved a budget increase of $25,360 to give raises to city employees.
The raises approved went to the maintenance staff, the city secretary and the city clerk, Mayor Darren Braddy said, because their pay levels were well below cities of a comparable size.
“What we’re giving in raises is so we can maintain and prepare for our future and our staffing needs,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, the council approved a tax rate that was lower than last year’s, but because of rising property values, higher than the effective tax rate. The 2019-20 effective tax rate was 85.2728 cents per $100 valuation, and the council approved a 91.761-cent tax rate. Last year’s budget was $570,000, and this year’s was $595,360.
While she didn’t object to the raises, Councilor Donna Thompson was concerned the budget left road repairs behind.
“There’s holes in the streets. That has to be a priority,” she said. “Our citizens come first. … It’s tearing their vehicles up.”
The budget does include room for adding a maintenance worker to the street crew, Braddy said, which should help. But, he added, next year’s budget would set the effective tax rate on this year’s budget, allowing the city to really concentrate on necessary repairs.
Councilor Willie “Bear” Wilkins agreed.
“You never know how the budget will run (from one year to the next),” he said. “It will settle us for a couple of years.”
The city is working on more permanent repairs for roads in town, Braddy said, but financial options are limited. There’s a few grants available to Cooper, but most of the choices boil down to low-interest loans, he said.
“How do you get the money?” Braddy said, pointing out the city was still paying for a loan on the water and sewer plants that extended through 2040. “We’re doing what makes sense for our future.”
At the meeting, the council also approved changes to the city’s curfew, at the recommendation from the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted for the city’s police force. Sgt. Elmo Robinson said he thought revising the ordinance would make peacekeeping in the city easier.
“Some of y’all are saying, ‘We’ve got a curfew ordinance?’” Robinson said.
The ordinance started in the 1970s, and limits loitering of those under 21 between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Robinson’s recommendation was to lower the age to 18 but push back the time to midnight. Councilman Allen Foster said it was a great idea. The council approved the measure unanimously.