Trenton City Council approves wage increase for police department; approves preparing ordinance calling for “Use Tax” vote

City of Trenton Website

The Trenton City Council Monday night voted to have an ordinance prepared to call for a public vote on a proposed local use tax within the city of Trenton. The council also approved recommended wage increases for the Trenton Police Department in an effort to attract candidates for police officer. Both topics had gone to the council as requested by the economic development and finance committees.

“The Use Tax” is seen as a means of increasing revenues for the city while also attempting to level competition for local businesses as certain purchases made online by Trenton residents does not carry the Trenton sales tax. City leaders say local businesses are at an unfair disadvantage when citizens make purchases from out of state vendors.  By law, the local use tax can not exceed the amount of current city sales taxes which collectively total two and five eights (2 5/8th } cents on every 100 dollars. It was noted a “yes” vote does not change the amount of the city of Trenton sales tax. An ordinance is to presented at the next council meeting setting the vote on a proposed local use tax for the April 6th ballot within the city limits of Trenton.

That ballot also will involve the election of four people to the city council, one from each ward. With two-year terms expiring next April are Council members Glen Briggs, Danny Brewer, Cathie Smith, and John Dolan in first through fourth wards. The candidate filing period to have names printed on the ballots runs from December 15th through January 19th.

Facing a shortage of police officers, and subsequent lack of any candidates, the city council voted 7 to nothing to raise the pay by $3.00 an hour. Dispatchers and the animal control officer get a $1.00 increase per hour. Chief Rex Ross noted there’s an authorized police force of 12 officers but just six are working now. The chief and police lieutenant also are helping with patrol duties. He noted officers who have left the Trenton police force are working elsewhere for more money.

A longtime Trenton police officer will retire next month and another officer is still on worker’s compensation. Out of just seven applications, only one officer was hired. He noted graduates at the law enforcement academy are “spoken” for before they leave there. Trenton’s starting wage for an officer has been $32,698 which is lower than Cameron, Chillicothe, and Bethany.

Costs associated with the raises have been revised compared to information released following a finance committee meeting last week. City Administrator Ron Urton says the wage increases plus benefits like FICA and Lager’s retirement will cost nearly $104,000. That amount is proposed to be offset by $82,754 in savings if the city is not paying for increased part-time and overtime expenses.  City Clerk Cindy Simpson said the $21,000 difference would come out of fund balances since the higher wages were not budgeted last May when the city’s fiscal year began.  The administrator also is to check as to whether the committee’s recommendation to pay an overtime rate above 45 hours per week on two salaried positions, the chief and the lieutenant, complies with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Following a discussion on making small purchases locally and whether to have a policy, it was decided to allow department heads and the city administrator to make those decisions on purchases of up to $2,500. The council is emphasizing the smaller purchases be made with local businesses whenever practical. Part of the issue is that certain purchases can be made on the internet for a lower cost when compared to locally-available prices. Suggestions were made to require a local purchase if the price is within five, ten, or 15 percent of a competing online price.

Some department leaders expressed their feeling that another policy wasn’t necessary. There’s a city policy related to seeking bids when purchases are $10,000 or more with up to five percent extra cost allowed to do so locally. But at the end of the discussion, the council decided to let city department leaders decide on smaller purchases locally if at all possible and reasonable.

In an effort to not cause additional wear and tear on city-owned trucks and better use of street department employees’ time, the council accepted the low bid on hauling of sand and rock for Trenton’s asphalt plant. Mutter Farms of Cairo, Missouri submitted the low bid of six dollars a ton for nine thousand tons of sand, and $2.50 a ton for 26,000 tons of rock. Combined, that’s a cost of $119,000. Hauling is from Mount Moriah to the Trenton Street Department.  Higher bids came from Tim Miller Trucking and Perkins Hauling.

The city council also met Monday night in executive session for legal matters, however, no action was taken nor announcements made.