Statesboro City Council last week solidified I. Cain Smith's appointment as city attorney. He has been serving on an interim basis since mid-December.
In the same Tuesday evening meeting, the council adopted the city's fiscal year 2018 budget, with unduplicated expenses in all funds totaling more than $47.9 million. No tax increase is required, but sanitation fees are increasing. A third phase of raises for city employees under the pay plan adopted last year was also confirmed.
Smith, who had served almost three years as associate solicitor to the Statesboro Municipal Court, was appointed city attorney by the mayor and council on an interim basis in December. He took over from J. Alvin Leaphart IV, who was city attorney five years and left for a county attorney position in New Mexico.
After a brief closed session to discuss the personnel decision at the end of last week's meeting, City Council returned to open session and unanimously approved a contract making Smith regular city attorney beginning July 1. The salary is stated as an annual $79,775, but the contract is not limited to one year, continuing until the mayor and council or Smith end it.
"So far, so good, I hope, on both sides," Smith said after the meeting. "I thoroughly enjoy working for the council and working for the city and doing a public service. I enjoy all aspects of the job, I really do, and I'm very honored for the opportunity."
Smith's total pay for the six and a half months he served as interim city attorney was $39,000. Under the new contract, if the city terminated his employment without cause, he would be entitled to six months' further salary. But he wouldn't be entitled to the severance pay if he lost his law license or State Bar membership or were convicted of a felony or certain other crimes. He also wouldn't receive severance if he voluntarily resigned, in which case he is required to give the city 45 days notice.
As city attorney, Smith is also officially the solicitor to the Municipal Court, but an associate solicitor does the day-to-day work of prosecuting cases.
Just as Leaphart was allowed to do under his final contract, Smith may practice law privately "as long as there are no conflicts of interest ... between his private practice of law and his representation of the City," his contract states.
"I think Cain has done a great job," Mayor Jan Moore said after the meeting. "You know, he had served as solicitor for us in the Municipal Court, and he has done a good job of filling Alvin's shoes, and we're glad that he has agreed to accept the appointment."
FY18 budget OK'd
Also during the June 20 meeting, the council took its final vote on the budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1.
Projected spending in the city's various funds - which in addition to the general fund include enterprise accounts such as water and sewer, natural gas, storm water and sanitation - totals $53.6 million. However, city departments pay other city departments for certain services, and with almost $5.7 million in such transfers subtracted, outgoing expenditures total a little over $47.9 million.
The general fund budget, supplied mainly by taxes, permit fees and fines, projects expenditures of $14.8 million against revenues of $14.64 million, and so would dip slightly into its carried balance. However, this fund also benefits from transfers from the other funds each year.
City Finance Director Cindy West reported that the budget was up for a vote "as presented at the budget retreat," and the council unanimously approved without further comment.
As proposed at the April 14 retreat, sanitation fees are being increased by about 4 percent for most types of accounts.
The announced increase for residential solid waste collection, including garbage polycart and yard waste service, is 65 cents, from the previous $17.35 a month to $18. That's 3.75 percent. For standard commercial polycart and yard waste service, the increase is 80 cents, from a previous rate of $19.45 a month to $20.25, or 4.1 percent.
Council confirmed the new rates last week by adopting the budget and an annual schedule of rates, fees and fines.
On a separate motion, the council unanimously adopted the third phase of raises proposed with the new pay and job classification plan adopted in 2016. The company called Evergreen Solutions, from Tallahassee, Florida, did a study of the city's pay grades "for internal and external equity," Human Resources Director Jeffrey Grant reminded the council.
The external comparisons were to 14 "market peers," including other southeastern Georgia and South Carolina cities, plus area educational institutions and the Georgia Ports Authority. The third and final phase of raises, designed to bring Statesboro city employees' salaries to the 55th percentile for the comparison group, takes effect beginning July 1. The estimated $130,000 cost was already in the new budget.
With the same motion, the council also adopted Evergreen's recommendation to eliminate "premium pay" raises awarded for attaining certifications. Instead, the city will be using a merit pay system based on job performance.
All unanimous votes without abstentions last week were 4-0, with Councilman Travis Chance absent because of illness.
No July 5 meeting
The morning City Council meeting that would have fallen on July 4 will not occur because of the holiday and will not be held July 5, either, by vote of the council last week. The next regular meeting will be July 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.