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City Of Dallas Passes Budget With Merit Pay Raises

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The Dallas City Council passed a new budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, as required by law.   And though the economy is improving, the vote was not without controversy.

During the recession years city workers experienced pay freezes, layoffs, and forced unpaid furlough days. Now that times are better some council members felt they should all get a three-percent across the board raise... but it didn't happen.

A member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) challenged council members before the vote.   "So, if you're talking the talk, you need to walk the walk," said Carlos Marroquin, who argued workers are already underpaid compared to other cities the same size; and that new fees will hurt more.  "Insurance going up and pension," he said.  "So their check is going to be a lot smaller this year if we are just going to rely on merit raises that a lot of times are not fair in the city."

Carolyn Davis agreed on the unfairness claim; in the past she said some on her staff had received good reviews but supervisors did not award them merit raises.  "From day one I have said I would support a three-percent across-the-board," she told the council.

Scott Griggs agreed in principle, saying it was only fair to pay back workers who stayed on during hard times.   "It's a decade since we've had a cost-of-living increase to make adjustments for inflation, the Consumer Price Index, and all the other factors. "

A week ago a majority of the council saw it this way in an unofficial straw vote. With an improving economy there's extra $4 million in revenue this year for salaries. Even then they won't kick in until April. But the mayor and others said with a flat three-percent even new hires would get raises in April. They argued for merit raises instead.

"I want to reward the people that have been through the pain. And I want to reward them with more than three-percent if possible," the Mayor told the council.  Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins echoed the merits of a merit raise.  "If one who works past 5:00 and after hours and bust their tail day in and day out, they deserve more money; and that's the way of the world."

On several occasions the mayor had to restore order when an unhappy Davis interrupted colleagues. But in the end the mayor had swayed enough council members to put the merit raises in by a 9 to 6 vote.

In adopting the budget the council also left the tax rate the same as last year, $0.7970 per $100 of assessed valuation, but even that was not without an argument. Lee Kleinmann argued since property values are up homeowners are effectively still paying more in property taxes even if the rate is the same -- but he was voted down 14 to 1.

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