Tense Exchange at Casper Council Meeting Ahead of Budget Approval
The Casper City Council unanimously approved the budget for fiscal year 2022, which since being put forward in May has had five amendments, but ran into issues beforehand.
Prior to approving the budget, Craig Burns, with lodge six of the fraternal order of police, approached the lectern to discuss the issues he and other members of the police have had with pay freezes.
Burns, who attended the meeting with eight other people, said there have been pay increase freezes on and off since 2017, that they were told in December 2020 that pay would be unfrozen, and wanted clarity from council.
Carter Napier, city manager of Casper, said he disagreed with term freeze, due to some employees getting raises based off the Graves plan, and that there are no raises proposed in the budget.
The Graves plan refers to a study commissioned by council last year to assess employee compensation by the city, finding that the city should increase the range at which city employees would be paid.
Council member Bruce Knells said he appreciates Burns coming forward to discuss the issue, but that the revenue coming into the city meant they were unable give more money to police officers, and that they were able to give bonuses on July 1 for the hard work done by city employees.
Napier said that in November the city would be revisiting the issue of wages.
Council member Steve Cathey said police officers should be happy that they are able to keep their jobs while many mineral workers, like his son, have been laid off.
"There are people that worked in the mining businesses that have been laid off, don't have jobs, still don't have jobs, have been hired back, laid off again, they have no jobs, no benefits, and you folks have kept all of your pay, all of your benefits and everything else. I would be really thankful if I had a job right now, and my son who is married, with two kids, trying to raise a family, was laid off twice in the last two years, and now he's driving a truck with no benefits."
Burns then asked Cathey how much his son made in 2014, and when a back and forth began developing, mayor Steve Freel called a point of order, Cathey began talking again, prompting Freel to call a point of order more forcefully.
Freel asked Napier if it was possible to set up a meeting between Burns, himself, vice mayor Ray Pacheco, and Napier.
Napier said a meeting like that would be unlikely, that there is only a $900 surplus in the general fund that the city has to work with, and that council will be coming back in November to discuss the issue again.
Freel and Knell both thanked Burns for coming and said they appreciated the work done by the police department.