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BOUNTIFUL FIREFIGHTERS, POLICE GET RAISE

Bountiful firefighters and police officers were smiling Wednesday night as the City Council granted them a 5.7 percent pay hike in next year's budget.

"I think they have been more than generous," said Julie Wilcox, a police officer who sat in on salary discussions with city officials. "I think they have been fair in listening to our request."The raise will cost the city $172,000 and will include reclassification and raises for 30 police officers and 11 firefighters. Thirteen other city employees will also be reclassified with raises. A new full-time position will also be created in the Recreation Department by adding $3,800 to its budget.

The raises were prompted by a wage survey of 10 Wasatch Front cities - five larger and five smaller. Bountiful has a policy of keeping its employee wages at the top third of those wages, City Manager Tom Hardy aid.

Along with the raises, all employees will begin to receive a $75 a month contribution. Contributions to employees with single insurance coverage will go into a special fund for co-payments and some expenses not covered by the city insurance plan. Employees with family coverage will be able to use the $75 to cover additional expenses.

The insurance benefits and wage increases amount to a 2.2 percent increase in employee compensation budgets, Hardy said.

While city officials were able to find $141,500 in its general fund it had to come up with $31,000 to fully fund the wage adjustments and new Recreation Department position.

Councilman Robert Gramoll asked that $65,000, earmarked for capital projects including funds for a city entrance sign project, be redirected toward the raise and insurance benefits and also include a 1 percent cost of living increase for all city employees.

"I am against shifting capital project funds into operating budgets," said Mayor Dean Stahle to Gramoll's suggestion noting the city's policy of evenly dividing tax revenues between the two funds.

"I don't think it would be the end of the world. Rules are made to be broken," Gramoll said.

Council members considered pulling the money from the Special Improvement Guarantee Fund. Councilman Dean Hill opposed the use of the fund, saying it was created with taxpayer money that was paid to finance special service districts.

Finally, the council agreed on a suggestion made by Councilman Harold Shafter that the council support the increase by dipping into the council's $100,000 contigency fund. It is hoped that an increase in next year's revenues will replenish the fund.

"There is a very good possibility that we will get 1 to 1 1/2 percent increase over projected revenues," Hardy said, noting that such an increase would amount to about $60,000.

City officials noted that the pay raise will be contingent on a decision made by the Wasatch Front Regional Council Thursday afternoon. The council will decide whether or not the city will receive $457,000 dollars in federal funding to help in a widening project of Orchard Drive this summer. Sandy Mayor Steve Newton has lead a fight against granting the funding.

Without the additional funding, the city is likely to have to tighten the belt on other budgets to pay for the road project.