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Small town, big question

Small town, big question

November 20, 2009
November 20, 2009

Just because a town is small, or the amount of taxpayer dollars in question is small, doesn’t mean big philosophical issues don’t arise from time to time. In New Meadows, the question is whether giving the city’s four full-time employees the day after Thanksgiving off as a paid holiday is a well deserved token of appreciation, or a misuse of taxpayers’ dollars?

The city council voted 3-1 Wednesday night, November 18th, to give New Meadows’ four full-time employees…the city clerk, city manager and two public works employees…the additional, unbudgeted day off with pay. The rationale of Mayor Gale Stillman is that she was unable to give them a pay raise this year, so she wanted to be able to show her appreciation to them.

“I’m very happy that it did pass,” said Stillman, “because I was the one who was wanting to give this little token of appreciation to our employees. We were able to have an excellent discussion, and everyone got to speak at length on how they felt about the issue.”

There’s no doubt that across the nation, city employees work hard and often don’t receive a lot of thanks from their constituents. But at a time when the city budget is stretched so tight, and private sector workers are losing their jobs or having their pay cut, why should public employees get special treatment?

The matter was brought to the attention of the Idaho Freedom Foundation by New Meadows resident Helen Myrick, who thinks the city’s employees have it better than most of the city’s residents already.

“They have year-round jobs with good pay and health coverage. Most people in the jobs up here can’t afford to cover themselves. We don’t have any health insurance, the general public doesn’t. We can’t afford it because of the co-pays private employers have to ask for.”

City Councilman Tony Koberstein agrees that New Meadows is having a tough time in this recession. “We’re barely breaking even. We’re looking for all different kinds of grants to try to keep up with federal and state regulations, make everything up to code and what have you. Then there’s always road improvements and everything else you have to do, and we don’t have any money…period! We’re at the point now that we’re raising our water rates and our sewer rates to compensate for what’s going on. “

Which is why he voted against giving the city employees another paid holiday. “It may seem like 800-some dollars don’t amount to much, but my feeling is there are nine other ones (holidays) already that were paid this year…that’s $7,200. Put another $800 on that, that’s $8,000 we’re gonna give for the year, in paid holidays. I think that’s pretty good…most people don’t ever see a paid holiday.”

Mayor Stillman told us Koberstein, Myrick and the rest of New Meadows’ citizens shouldn’t worry about the additional paid holiday becoming a regular, yearly event. “It was a one-time thing. We don’t plan to do this every year. It was a one time thing to show appreciation in lieu of getting raises, they (city employees) didn’t get raises this year. It’s not that big of an amount of money. If we had given them even a 1% raise it would have cost us over $2,000. This is just a small token of appreciation, and we strongly believe in retaining our current employees.”

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