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Elmer City passes budget after drama

 


Elmer City has a 2017 budget, but not without a bit of strife.

It was all over a $2 an hour raise for city clerk Gary Benton.

The raise and passage of the town’s $915,603 budget narrowly passed Dec. 8, with one council member, Jesse Tillman, voting against the budget because of the raise, and another, Councilmember Don Bonertz, abstaining.

That left the vote 2-1, with Clara Carson and Larry Holford voting for the budget, including the raise for Benton, and Tillman voting no and Bonertz abstaining. Councilmember Joaquin Marchand was not at the meeting.

The turmoil over the raise and budget led Mayor Gail Morin to offer her job to anyone interested, and ended with Benton leaving the meeting.

No one took Morin up on her offer, and later Benton said he regretted leaving the meeting because “it wasn’t professional.”

When asked why he abstained, Bonertz said, “No comment.”

Tillman told the council that he had looked up city clerk salaries and found that the national average was $12 an hour, and that includes many larger cities.

Benton was making $17.50 an hour before the raise.

Mayor Morin said that Tillman had been at three budget workshops where Benton’s raise was in the budget and didn’t say anything during those workshops.

“You can’t get good clerks for $12 an hour,” the mayor asserted.

Councilmember Tillman had pointed out to the council that Elmer City was a small town, and that former city clerk Renee Tillman had been making $20 an hour but she had 10 years of experience.

He said Benton was already making more than the national average and that the town giving him a $2 raise was setting a bad precedent.

Last week Jesse Tillman said that he was concerned that “the town wasn’t building up its utility reserves so it could handle emergencies when they occur.”

“We are just a small town and need to control our expenses,” he said.

Councilmember Larry Holford said he was concerned with the rising utility rates and told Morin that he was not going to be doing these raises every three months.

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