After receiving the budget to review earlier this month, the London City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the $10 million 2008-09 fiscal budget. The action was taken during a special called-meeting Wednesday.

The proposed budget is a $1.3 million increase over the 2007-08 fiscal budget, which was $8.7 million. However, London Mayor Troy Rudder explained that the proposed budget accounts for all money coming in to the city, including grant money.

Among the items in the proposed budget is a 2 percent pay increase for city employees, $50,000 for the construction of the skateboard park and funds to replace six police cruisers.

Rudder said the $50,000 for the skateboard park comes from coal severance money, along with $30,000 to upgrade equipment in the city’s police cars. The coal severance money comes through the Department for Local Government to areas of the state’s coal producing region.

In addition, the city has about $12,500 in donations to put toward the park.

Rudder said plans are to build the park on city-owned property on Dixie Street. However, there is no timetable for the project.

The 2 percent raise will go to all of the city’s 90 employees.

The London Police Department accounted for about 31 percent of the city’s budget, receiving $3.1 million. Almost half of that money, — $1,510,000 — goes toward salaries.

Rudder said while the pay raises aren’t in line with the annual increase in the cost of living, the city offers an extensive employee benefits package.

“I’m a big proponent of benefits,” Rudder told the council. “That is the best thing we can do for our employees.”

Council Member Nancy Vaughn asked whether the city had a system for giving merit raises to deserving employees. Vaughn praised the city workers who pick up her trash every week, telling the council that even snow and slick streets didn’t stop them.

“Even when we had the snow up to your boot tops, they didn’t miss a week,” Vaughn said.

Rudder explained that when and how merit pay raises are given is a decision made by the department heads, but suggested it may be time for one merit system for all of the city’s employees.

The city’s final budget is to take effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2009. Rudder said, if necessary, the council might make changes to the budget throughout the year.

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