On June 4, 2024, the Sealy City Council convened to address the potential implementation of a cost of living increase (COLA) for city employees. The meeting, attended by Mayor Carolyn Bilski and all council members, centered on the city’s financial health and the sustainability of a proposed COLA.

City Manager’s Proposal

City Manager Kimbra Hill presented a detailed financial report to the council, outlining the cost of the proposed COLA and its impact on the city’s budget. The total cost for implementing the COLA across all departments was projected at $48,169.30. City Manager Hill noted that most departments had surplus personnel funds that could cover the increase for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, the finance, city manager, animal control, and building services departments would require internal adjustments.

City Manager Hill expressed concern about sustaining the COLA in the next fiscal year, highlighting that the general fund would need to generate an additional $109,000, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) $5,100, and the enterprise departments $25,000. Preliminary numbers from the Austin County Appraisal District suggested potential revenue increases from property taxes and sales taxes, but Hill urged caution.

Councilmember Concerns

Councilmember Dee Anne Lerma questioned the decision to use surplus departmental funds instead of the economic stabilization fund, which had been earmarked for COLA. City Manager Hill explained that using the stabilization fund could leave the city vulnerable in case of emergencies. Councilmember Lerma also stressed the urgent need to address the shortage of police officers by offering competitive compensation.

Councilmember Edward Zapalac echoed Councilmember Lerma’s concerns, emphasizing the importance of retaining experienced police officers for public safety. He supported the idea of ensuring funding without depleting the economic stabilization fund.

Councilmember Chris Noack and Mayor Bilski raised concerns about budget accuracy, advocating for a thorough review by the city’s finance director and auditor. Mayor Bilski also proposed involving council members and department heads in a budget workshop to improve planning and transparency.



Proposed Solutions

Several solutions were proposed to balance the immediate need for a COLA and long-term financial sustainability:

  • Splitting funding between surplus departmental funds and the economic stabilization fund.
  • Reviewing the police department’s pay scale and considering incentives or merit-based pay to retain officers.
  • Building the COLA and merit increases into the budget from the start of the fiscal year.
  • Hiring an HR consultant to develop competitive compensation packages and sustainable funding strategies.

Decisions and Actions

The council approved a motion to implement a 3% COLA for all city employees, funded by surplus departmental funds for the remainder of the fiscal year. They also agreed to schedule a special meeting to discuss potential budget amendments and strategies for retaining police officers. Additionally, the council decided to engage an HR consultant to help develop a comprehensive compensation strategy.

You can watch the full discussion starting at the 00:33:35 mark of the video below:





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