No millage rate increase in Forest Park

FOREST PARK — Forest Park residents won’t see an increase in their tax bill as City Council members voted Tuesday to keep the millage rate the same as last year’s.

The board voted unanimously to keep the millage rate at 14.743.

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord took the opportunity to remind council members about the possibility that employees could get a raise this year, depending on revenues.

Lord said she is proud of the city’s devotion to its workers.

“We are the biggest city in Clayton County,” she said. “We did some extra hiring and have had no layoffs and no hours cut.”

Forest Park also foots the bill for medical and dental coverage for employees. Employees with families pay $12 a week for one or more dependents, she said.

“The city has been absorbing the insurance premiums for years,” she said, despite increasing rates.

In 2004, the monthly cost was $209 for each employee, more than $600 for an employee with one dependent and more than $800 for an employee with more than one dependent.

That rate has climbed to $542 for an employee, $1,171 for a worker with one dependent and $1,545 for one with a family, said Lord.

“This year, we saw a 5.5 percent increase and the city is still paying,” she said. “And it still costs the employees nothing except $12 a week if they have dependents.”

Lord said the benefits offset a lack of expensive raises. She said workers got 3 percent raises in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and a 5 percent raise in 2008 followed by a cost of living raise in 2011.

“No, we have not had raises as much as we wanted to but we feel we have the best employees in the state,” she said. “We could not have given them a big enough raise to cover their insurance premiums. They may not get a raise every time they want one but many of them tell me they stay primarily because of the insurance coverage.”

Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith said he plans to ask the city to give the workers a Christmas bonus in lieu of a raise.

“It would be a one-time thing,” he said.

Council members agreed this summer to consider employee raises if city revenues meet expectations.