By SHELLY WILKISON
The Liberty Hill City Council on Monday gave city employees a 5 percent pay increase with an additional 6 percent merit pay raise for department heads.
The pay raise, which wasn’t budgeted this fiscal year but will show up on paychecks the first week in June, will cost the city an estimated $105,000.
Mayor Connie Fuller said city workers in Liberty Hill are paid less than neighboring cities, and the pay increase will help Liberty Hill be more competitive. She said for some positions, Liberty Hill salaries are 28 percent less than other cities.
The pay increase comes in advance of a Council-commissioned study by Ray Associates that will compare Liberty Hill city salaries to other municipalities in the region, as well as determine job classifications, duties and appropriate compensation. Fuller said the results of that study, which will cost the City about $30,000, are expected in August, and will be considered for the next fiscal year.
After an hour-long executive session, the Council reconvened and voted to approve the pay increase for all employees with the exception of those on a “personal improvement plan” as a result of problems identified during evaluations conducted this spring.
After the meeting, Fuller said two employees were placed on a “PIP”, however, they would become eligible for the raise after 90 days of successful completion of the plan.
City Administrator Greg Boatright will receive the 5 percent raise starting next month, but his contract and salary will be reviewed again in 2018.
Councilmember Wendell McLeod, whose wife is a city employee, abstained from the vote on the across the board 5 percent raise.
Those who will receive the 11 percent pay increase include City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann, Municipal Court Administrator Tracy Ventura, Senior Planner Sally McFeron, Police Chief Maverick Campbell and Utility Director Wayne Bonnet.
Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis, who was also included on the list, resigned the following day.
Following the vote Monday, Mayor Fuller, who on May 8 was placed in a supervisory role over the police chief, read a prepared statement into the record. The statement cited Chapter 22 of the Local Government Code regarding the supervision of “municipal officers”, which were defined in Fuller’s statement as the “city administrator, police chief, and city secretary”.
“The City Council and I retain supervisory, appointment and disciplinary authority over these city officers,” she said. “As Mayor, I have been given additional duties regarding supervision and direction of our employees.”
Specifically, she noted Section 22.042(b) of the Local Government Code.
“It states that the Mayor ‘shall inspect the conduct of each subordinate municipal officer and shall cause any negligence, carelessness, or other violation of duty to be prosecuted and punished.’ I take this duty seriously, and the City Council has updated our Employee Handbook to reflect the role the City Council and I maintain by getting us involved in the evaluations of the city’s officers (earlier identified as the city administrator, police chief, city secretary),” she said.
Also Monday, Jon Branigan, a real estate agent, took the Oath of Office and was seated as Liberty Hill’s newest council member. He ran unopposed in Place 3, the seat previously held by his mother, Elizabeth Branigan, who did not seek re-election.
Incumbent council members Troy Whitehead and Liz Rundzieher, who were also unopposed, also took the oath and were seated for two-year terms.
In a unanimous vote, Rundzieher was elected by council to serve as Mayor Pro Tem.
In other matters, the Council voted unanimously to pursue an agreement with National Sign Plazas Inc. to start a sign plaza program in Liberty Hill. The directional signs would identify subdivisions, developers or home builders with the City, and might also include directions to public buildings.
The Council also authorized the staff to redesign the City’s logo, which will be placed at the top of the signage.The City will not pay for the signs, but will have input as to their placement, and will receive $10 per panel per month.
Also this week, the Council approved $3,500 for travel expenses and training for police officers and the Chief that would occur in the next fiscal year. The expense comes from the current year’s budget because expenses must be paid before fiscal year’s end in September. Information about the training was not provided Monday.
The Council approved a contract with Texas Municipal Police Association to provide automatic dues deduction from their member police officers’ paychecks. While TMPA had previously offered to pay the City an administrative fee for the service — up to 25 percent of dues collected — the Council voted to waive all fees and provide the service at taxpayers’ expense free to the union. TMPA representatives previously told the Council that the administrative fee would not have been charged to local officers.
Chief Maverick Campbell, who was not present Monday due to illness, “will report and take direction from the Mayor and City Council,” according to an employment contract that was amended earlier this month. The Council amended the contract again Monday to include language allowing him to be paid for business expenses incurred while attending training and conferences.
Fuller explained that when Campbell’s original employment contract was amended the first time, the section on expense reimbursement for relocation was removed. Even though he has already been paid for his relocation from Kansas to Texas in June 2016, the language should not have been removed.
Although The Independent requested a copy of the contract, it was not provided by press time late Wednesday.
In other police matters, the Council approved the employment of Justin Anastasiades as a police officer at the salary of $37,128. Anastasiades has two years of prior law enforcement experience at Bremond Police Department and fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Brian Waters in April.
In other business, the Council approved:
– A $5,000 contribution to Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center.
– A final plat for the Highland Meadows (Orchard Ridge) subdivision, Phase 2A.
– A variance to UDC to allow office/warehouse use at a property located at W. SH 29 and Holmes Road.
– Approved a proclamation recognizing May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.