Marlinton Town Council Approves End Of Year Incentive Payments
Marlinton, WV – In a split decision, Marlinton council voted to pay its employees an end-of-year incentive award. During its December 5 meeting, council debated the legality of paying the bonus. Mayor Joe Smith tells council that payment of an incentive is allowable.
“I re-verified it,” he said. “It still stands. As long as it is an incentive and not a bonus, the town is authorized to do this, through the state auditor’s office.”
Recorder Robin Mutscheller tells council that the payment is illegal.
“Now, I attended the Municipal League seminar and, it just so happened, during that seminar, they discussed whether or not you could give a bonus, and call it an incentive and they said that you cannot,” she said. “
Councilmember Norris Long says the state auditor does not oppose the payments.
“As long as it’s a one-time, quote, incentive and it will not increase their salary, that they will not have a problem,” he said. “But, they also say that, if it goes before a court, that it may get shot down.”
Councilmember Loretta Malcomb reads a portion of a state auditors guidance letter from last year, indicating that a one-time payment is okay.
“Clearly a bonus in which there is no intent by the government to continue the increase into succeeding periods, then our office will not take exception to the payment, during the course of an audit,” she said.
Mutscheller played an audio from a state auditors meeting, where state officials discussed a Cabell County Clerk, who had to pay out-of-pocket to refund an end-of-year incentive that was given to employees.
The Recorder tells Council members, if they approve the bonus payment, they should be prepared to pay it back, out-of-pocket.
“If you do it, you should be prepared,” she said “If it’s challenged in court, you may have to give it out of your pocket,” she said.
Smith said the town had paid bonuses for the last 20 years. Mutscheller moved that no Christmas bonus or incentive be paid. The motion died for a lack of second.
Long moved to pay an end-of-year incentive award of $200.00 for full-time employees and $100.00 for part-time employees. The measure passed by a 3-2 vote. Mutscheller and councilmember Natasha McMann voted against the bonus. Councilmember Louise Barnisky abstained.
Council also considered raising the starting wage for town employees. Smith recommended raising the starting wage to eight dollars an hour, or an automatic raise after a probationary period. Mutscheller says the town should have the flexibility to hire an employee at the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“As an employer, if you have the flexibility to hire at a lower wage, if you choose, then you can give someone that chance for a job that requires no skill,” she said. “But, if you lock yourself in, then you don’t.”
McMann says she supports the wage increase.
“I seconded because I think we need to have a competitive wage in today’s market,” she said. “But, at the same time, we need to make sure – you know – I’ve had more than one person complain to me this month and also in previous months about how they don’t feel that the town workers are working.
“All I know is – two months ago – we asked that there be a maintenance report provided to us monthly. As of now, we have yet to see one and I would like to see that by next month. That way, if someone does complain, I can have, well, this is what they did this month.”
Council disapproved the wage increase by a 4-2 vote. Long and McMann voted in the minority to approve the raise.
Council voted unanimously to purchase a truck with electric snowplow from Mitchell Chevrolet for $17,850. The truck is a 2003 Chevrolet F350 with about 45,000 miles. The snowplow currently operated by the town is a 1993 model with 144,000 miles and maintenance issues.
In other business, Council formed a committee to draft a new parking ordinance for the town. Council members David Zorn, Long and Malcomb volunteered to serve on the committee.