Mineral considers minimum wage hike

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Town of Mineral considered raising the minimum wage for town employees to $15 an hour in the new budget year, but decided to follow the state’s incremental plan to increase pay.

Council had approved a raise on April 22 for all Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles clerks and part-time maintenance staff to $15 an hour, and set that amount as the town’s minimum wage. The vote was 4-1, with Ed Kube opposed and Vice Mayor Michael Warlick not in attendance. 

But councilors revisited the issue at their May 12 meeting and decided to support Kube’s motion to phase in pay hikes in line with the state’s required minimum wage increases. Mayor Pam Harlowe cast the deciding vote to break a 3-3 tie.

 As of May 1, the statewide minimum wage is $9.50 an hour. On Jan. 1, 2022 it will increase to $11 an hour, with more hikes planned to reach $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2026.  

In April, members had also approved pay raises for the town clerk, town manager, head maintenance worker and part-time cemetery groundskeeper, which passed 3-2 with Tom Runnett and Roy McGehee opposed. All pay raises would go into effect on July 1 with the start of the new budget year.

Kube objected at the May meeting, noting that the raises ranged from a 10 percent increase to a 28.4 percent increase in salary. 

“I think those are excessive, not because I disagree with what they might be, but as a one-time jump by those percentages,” he said.

Kube further expressed concern that setting increases would undermine the work of the town’s auditors, who are currently putting together a salary scale and structure for the town.  

The council voted to rescind the salary increases passed in April, with the mayor again casting the deciding vote. Kube then proposed a two percent raise for all town employees on July 1, and to then revisit the issue in six months to consider further salary increases based on the results of the auditors’ study. The motion failed.

Runnett then proposed a six percent raise for employees and for them to receive bonuses from surplus DMV revenue. Both provisions would go into effect July 1.

“I value our employees, but we need to remember who put us [on council],” Runnett said. “We need to find a way to show the employees our appreciation and to show the citizens that we’re being good stewards of their money.”

Ed Jarvis seconded the motion, which passed 5-1. Dr. William Thomas cast the dissenting vote.

The proposed fiscal year 2022 budget shows an increase in revenue and expenses in several areas for the next fiscal year. The biggest revenue increase is anticipated to come from the DMV Select. Since reopening its doors in June 2020, the Mineral DMV has seen an increase in business, bringing in more than $300,000 in revenue for the town, well over the $175,000 anticipated in last year’s budget. The draft budget anticipates $336,000 in DMV funds.

Another increase is anticipated from new water and sewer connection fees. The town is budgeting $60,000 in water connection fees (up from $4,000) and $120,000 in sewer fees (up from $8,000) for the coming year, in anticipation of several new property developments within the next year.

The proposed tax rates of 24 cents per $100 of assessed value (real estate tax) and 48 cents per $100 (personal property tax) remain the same in the coming budget year.

Council will vote on a finalized budget at their regular business meeting on June 14.

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