Holloway vetoes pay, longevity measures

Mayor A.J. Holloway, following through on promise made a week ago, has vetoed two ordinances that would increase pay for city employees, saying the third pay increase for employees in two years would lead to a reduction in the city work force or an increase in city property taxes.

Holloway’s 19-page veto message, which was delivered to members of the council this morning, includes a report that shows Biloxi already pays nearly $5.7 million in insurance benefits to employees, more than double any of the 151 Mississippi cities and towns included in the survey by the Stennis Institute of Government. In addition, the veto also includes a 14-page report showing the individual amounts that would be paid to employees in the $1.16 million in longevity payments the council is proposing.

The mayor has maintained that council members, in increasing employee pay, are failing to appreciate the city’s overall pay and benefits package, which includes total funding of health insurance for employees and their families, as well as the longevity pay, which is an instrument designed to retain veteran employees by paying them extra for each month of their overall service.

“I veto these two pay increases because, as stated in a previous veto, the level of funding required is exorbitant,” Holloway said in today’s veto message. “Frankly, since they are initially being funded by exhausting half of the city’s gaming reserves, I fear that the city may be forced to either reduce the municipal workforce in a couple of years or increase residential and commercial property taxes.”

Earlier this month Holloway vetoed the FY ’09 municipal budget because it included funding for the pay measures. In that veto, which the City Council overrode, Holloway had vowed to veto the pay measures when they arrived on his desk, which they did Friday.

The mayor said the council’s two pay increases would cost Biloxi taxpayers about $2.2 million annually, and the figure would grow each year. “With the $4 million cost of the $4,600 increase last year, this means we will be saddling Biloxi taxpayers with at least a $6 million obligation each year,” Holloway said.

Holloway has proposed a 2½ percent across-the-board pay increase for employees, along with a $3 increase in longevity pay, instead of the $9 increase proposed by councilmembers. His measure would reduce costs of the increases by a million dollars.

Councilmembers will now have 10 working days to override the mayor’s veto. Three-fifths of council members present and voting would be required to override a mayoral veto, according to state statute.

Read the veto message and supporting documents

To see the complete 19-page veto message, along with the benefits comparison and list of longevity payouts, click here.