BENTON HARBOR — For the second time this year, Benton Harbor city commissioners on Monday tabled giving nonunion employees a 3 percent raise, saying they need more information.
City Manager Darwin Watson said the nonunion employees have not received a raise since 2010, while union employees have received several raises over the years. He said the increase would cost the city $1,250 a month, which comes to $15,000 annually.
He said the only nonunion workers not on the list are people who have been recently hired.
Commissioner MaryAlice Adams said she needs some questions answered before she can support the raise.
“And not having a finance director really bothers me,” she said.
The city’s finance director, Andrew Clark, resigned in February. Commissioners voted down a motion to accept his resignation earlier this month, preventing the city from searching for a new one.
Commissioner Sharon Henderson said they need to give the employees a raise.
“They haven’t even had a cost of living increase,” she said. “We have a responsibility to take care of the people who take care of the city.”
Several commissioners said most of the employees are hard-working and deserve a raise, but some don’t deserve a raise. The list of affected employees was not made public.
Henderson said if commissioners want to remove some people from the list, they should do that.
“But we shouldn’t deny our employees this raise,” she said.
Commissioner Duane Seats, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Marcus Muhammad, said they need to be careful if they take some people off the list.
“I don’t want to get into a place where we go to court for discrimination,” he said.
He said they need to either give all of them a raise or none of them a raise.
Seats also said he would like to see the pay Benton Harbor workers make compared to other cities.
Watson said that has been provided in previous city commission packets and comparisons to other cities show that Benton Harbor workers make below average wages.
Commissioner Ron Singleton said he doesn’t understand what the rush is.
“I would feel more comfortable getting some more information,” he said. “I do believe wholeheartedly that they deserve it.”
Voting to table the item along with Adams and Singleton were Commissioners Juanita Henry, Edward Isom and Ruthie Haralson. Voting not to table the raise were Seats and Henderson. Muhammad and Commissioner C.F. Jones were absent.
In other business, commissioners approved updates to the city’s ordinance governing animals and fowls and the ordinance on mobile food trucks.
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