Writer: Charles Oliver
Published December 15, 2021
Dalton City Council members voted 3-0 Monday to adopt a $37.138 million 2022 budget, up from $34.407 million in the 2021 budget. That spending increase is driven mainly by the largest single-year pay increase for city employees in at least two decades.
Council member Tyree Goodlett was absent, and Mayor David Pennington typically votes only if there is a tie.
The city's fiscal year starts Jan. 1.
The city of Dalton's general fund spending will rise 7.94% under the 2022 budget. Council members said they do not anticipate having to raise property taxes in 2022 and believe they will be able to cut taxes.
Salaries and benefits account for 63% of city spending. The city has 367 employees. Spending on salaries will increase $2.7 million in 2022 under the budget following a study earlier this year by Evergreen Solutions of Tallahassee, Florida, that reviewed city salaries and compared them to other local governments and to the private sector.
The study looked at the pay scales of the governments of Athens/Clarke County, Calhoun, Cartersville, Catoosa County, Douglasville, Gordon County, Kennesaw, LaGrange, Rome, Whitfield County and Cleveland, Tennessee, as well as Dalton Utilities.
City employees will see an average pay increase of about 8%, but the fire and police departments will see a pay increase of 10%.
City officials say the pay increases are needed not only to attract and retain employees in competition with the private sector and other local governments but to make sure employee pay keeps up with inflation.
The consumer price index surged 6.8% from a year ago in November, the fastest rate since June 1982 and the sixth straight month in which prices rose by more than 5%. The producer price index, which measures what producers pay for the materials they use to make goods, rose 9.6% in November.
In addition to the salaries increase, health insurance costs will rise 18% in 2022 to $666,000.
The council members also voted 3-0 to:
—Approve a $2,500-a-month retainer for Dalton's H2B Creative for design, copywriting, layout and other services associated with advertising and marketing for the city. The agreement can be canceled by either side with 60 days notice.
—Amend an agreement with Dalton's Southern Janitorial Services to add the west wing of the second floor of City Hall to the cleaning contract. The amendment will cost $550 a month, bringing the total cost of the contract to $2,095 a month.
—Approve a permit for a grease trap at the old Boats & Motors of Dalton building at 301 E. Morris St. The owners of the building plan a new restaurant.
—Approve a two-year agreement with BluLynx Solutions of Roswell for consulting services related to federal and state COVID-19 relief funds. The agreement will pay BluLynx $131 per hour.
After the meeting, council members held a reception for Gary Crews, who is leaving the council on Dec. 31 after 11 years. Crews said that to the best he can remember he missed just one council meeting in that time.
"I think I may have missed one meeting due to COVID," he said.
Crews also had more than 200 hours of training from the Georgia Municipal Association and the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
"The dedication you have shown this city is an example for everybody," said Pennington. "I don't think anybody was ever more committed to the city of Dalton than you."
Crews thanked city employees for helping turn the council members' plans over the years into reality.