Alabaster reinstates city employee raises

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabaster city employees due merit raises during the 2011 fiscal year will get them, after the Alabaster City Council voted to pass the city’s budget Sept. 30.

Council members originally voted to suspend all city employee merit raises for the 2011 fiscal year during a Sept. 16 meeting.

However, after reviewing the budget in late September, city leaders discovered they would be able to reinstate the merit raises for all eligible employees, said Alabaster Mayor David Frings.

“We just looked at the budget very closely,” Frings said. “We had several capital items budgeted, like parks and rec equipment, that weren’t things that absolutely had to be replaced this year.

“We decided to forego those things this year, and that helped us come up with enough savings to reinstate the employee raises,” Frings added.

Frings said Alabaster’s sales tax revenues have been on the rise recently, and the extra revenue helped city officials “take care” of the city’s workers.

If the city would have frozen employee merit raises for the 2011 fiscal year, it would have marked the second straight year of the raise freeze.

“We are seeing a little bit of action in our sales tax revenue, and there is some retail construction starting up again,” he said. “I think it’s good to take care of your employees.

“We told them at the beginning of September that we were going to try to reinstate the raises, but not to get their hopes up. I think they understood why we had to freeze the raises last year, but they didn’t like it, and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to like it,” he added.

Even though the city employees didn’t receive merit raises last year, Frings said they worked hard to keep their costs down while providing services to the city.

“They did a great job watching their budgets last year, and I think you need to reward your employees any time they do a good job,” Frings said. “I think they are a valuable asset, and we work hard to find ways to reward them with things like this.”

Many of the city’s employees were surprised when Alabaster officials announced the merit raise reinstatement, and Frings said it will serve as an incentive for them to improve the city’s services.

“The employees I’ve talked to seemed really excited and surprised about it,” Frings said. “I told them at the beginning of September that (having the raises reinstated) would be a long shot. But we were able to take a look at the budget and find a way to give that to them this year.

“We have got some great employees, and it feels good to be able to reward them,” he added.