Fort Smith city administrator gets 2.5% pay raise

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 254 views 

Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack walked out of tonight's (July 16) Board of Directors meeting with a reason to smile after the Board voted to give Gosack a 2.5% pay raise effective Aug. 1 following his performance review at tonight's meeting.

Following the nearly hour and a half executive session, Mayor Sandy Sanders announced the Board's intention, saying that Gosack had performed well since being hired as city administrator more than two years ago.

"The Board was very pleased with Mr. Gosack's continuing excellent performance and following discussion, the Board has considered the fact that Mr. Gosack since he has been hired has not had a pay increase and has discussed a pay increase for him at this time."

Gosack's salary is $149,500 per year with a car allowance of $5,400 each year, as well. Other benefits, such as health insurance, are the same as other city employees, he said. His raise will amount to an additional $3,737.50 per year.

The pay raise was something both parties wanted, according to Gosack.

"An increase wasn't unexpected. I wasn't really sure how much to expect. I'm very pleased with it. I think it recognizes the accomplishments that the staff has made over the last two and a half years to implement the Board's goals. … It was mutual. Yes."

The staff Gosack mentions includes all city employees, many of whom Gosack said have been receiving pay increases in varying amounts, typically in the 3% range. Employees who have not received pay raises include those who are ineligible based on performance situations or are on probation, he said.

Following the vote, Director George Catsavis, the only Board member to vote against the raise, said he did so not because Gosack wasn't deserving, but because of the city's financial situation.

"Well, with the revenues being down the last few months and I don't feel like it's appropriate right now to be giving raises to …I just think we need to wait and see how our revenues are going to come out the next few months before we give raises. I mean, you don't spend money you don't have."

That said, Catsavis said he was not against all pay raises, just this particular raise.

"I know that there may be some raises that need to be addressed, but I think that we should have waited until budget talks until we made any decisions on raises for the administrator."

Catsavis did not go as far as Sanders in praising Gosack's performance, saying, "His performance was about the same as it was last time, so it's been steady. So, you know, nothing major. It's been on a steady keel."

Performance reviews haven't always been a smooth endeavor for Gosack and the Board. His last review, in July 2012, was his fourth in less than a year and involved allegations of conflict between various Board members and city department heads.

"While Sanders and the board, were unwilling to discuss the specifics of the personnel matters, sources wishing to remain anonymous have stated the matter involved 'threats to Director Catsavis' and 'derogatory comments about Director (Pam) Weber,' allegedly attributed to Baridi Nkokheli, Fort Smith sanitation director," The City Wire previously reported.

No such animosity presented itself following the meeting tonight, which also saw the Board approve Nkokheli's request for an update to city regulations regarding automated trash collection in residential areas. He had asked the Board to give him discretion in determining which properties should be allowed to use dumpsters instead of trash bins. The ordinance also classifies a residential customer as a customer in a structure containing four or less residential units.

Weber's previous complaints about the ordinance, that it did not provide an appeals process to Nkokheli's decision regarding curbside collection versus a dumpster, was addressed by Gosack, who informed Directors that Ordinance 83-12, which was approved by voters in November 2012 and mandated citywide curbside sanitation service, actually included language that would require a supermajority vote of 5 of the 7 city directors to allow for another collection method "where it is impractical for the side-loader solid waste collection vehicles to operate due to terrain or other conditions."

Nkokheli apologized for any confusion his request for a new ordinance had caused, telling The City Wire that "it was my fault" for not being aware of the language in Ordinance 83-12.

Tonight's vote was 6-1 for the ordinance's second reading, meaning the ordinance will not have to come back for third and final reading due to the Board's supermajority vote.