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JEA Pay Raise for Workers?

10:35 AM, Dec 14, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --The new mayor's reorganization passed the city council tonight.

Mayor Alvin Brown's new reorganization plan was approved by the Jacksonville City Council with a vote of 16-1. The dissenting vote was councilman Matt Schellenberg.

As part of the reorganization vote, an amendment was passed to take the Children's Commission out of the plan to allow more time to understand how it would fit in under the new structure.

The council also is scheduled to vote tonight on giving more than 1,700 JEA employees pay raises. The increases already were approved this summer in the city budget, but not all city council members are on board.

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"It certainly is a reflection of our society that certain people think they're entitled to raises," said Schellenberg, who doesn't think that some of the workers are entitled to a pay increase.

"Just staying even, not getting any raises for the next 3 or 4 years is appropriate, and maybe we should potentially look to see if they're getting overpaid," he said.  

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According to public records, JEA employee salaries in Jacksonville are on par with other public utility companies in similar sized cities.

Crew leaders in Memphis, Tenn., make around $65,000 a year, same as Jacksonville.

JEA CEO Jim Dickenson told the city council that the company needs to increase entry-level salaries to remain competitive.

And Spokeswoman Gerri Boyce says the contract they've negotiated doesn't include any pay raises for employees in 2009 or 2010.

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The salary increases for the employees already were included in the Jacksonville City Budget approved this summer, and were approved by the company's board of directors.

The last step is approval from the city council.

"They are an independent agency, and this is one of the difficulties of the city owning JEA. Maybe it's time that the city consider selling JEA and getting out of that business all together," Schellenberg said.  

Schellenberg argues it's inappropriate to expect tax payers to shoulder the company's increases, and he plans to vote against them.

"If we, the council, decide not to accept it, I think there are plenty of people out there who are willing to take jobs at the appropriate pay," he said.

Dickenson is expected to make a statement after the Council's decision.      

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