Councilmember Sharon Hightower was the member of the Greensboro City Council who had the most to say about the proposed 2020-2021 budget at the City Council virtual work session on Tuesday, May 26 at 3 p.m.

Hightower dominates most meetings of the City Council with questions and comments, and the virtual City Council work session was no different.

Hightower is critical of merit raises and said she favors across-the-board raises for all employees. She also expressed concern that police officers and firefighters were going to get higher raises than the rest of the city employees.

She said, “Go back to this funding for the police and fire step program, $1.04 million. Are the other employees getting the same?”

Hightower asked if the 2 percent across-the-board raise for all employees couldn’t be put back in the budget in an effort to even out the raises across all departments.

There were two separate items in the budget presentation concerning city employee salaries. One is a 1.5 percent cost of living raise that is across the board. The other is funding for a 2 percent job range structure adjustment.

The 1.5 percent across-the-board raise was reduced from a projected 2 percent raise in order to make up some of the $7 million deficit caused by the drop in sales tax revenue. With everybody ordered to stay at home and many businesses closed, people since March haven’t been spending at the same level as was projected before the COVID-19 crisis.

Reducing the across-the-board city employee raise by 0.5 percent reduces the cost of that line item by about $490,000.

The 2 percent job range salary adjustment could result in raises for employees who are at the bottom of the salary schedule and it could make those at the top of the salary schedule eligible for a raise, but it actually is adjusting the pay scale itself, not individual salaries. If the pay range for a particular position was $80,000 to $100,000, the adjustment would make that about $81,600 to $102,000. You would expect most of the employees to be in the middle somewhere, so their salaries would not be affected.

Much of the discussion time was spent with Budget Director John Decker, Assistant City Manager Larry Davis and City Manager David Parrish offering explanations of the pay raise and salary scale adjustment.