Eligible city of Fort Smith employees, including police and fire personnel, could receive bonuses between $2,500 and $750, and city employees could also get a break on insurance premiums deducted from paychecks during the December pay period.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (Sept. 13) reviewed proposals from Rick Lolley, the city’s human resources director, to provide one-time bonuses to certain city employees as a reward for their “demonstrated hard work and commitment” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lolley noted in his memo to City Administrator Carl Geffken that many “cities and counties in our region have paid similar one-time payments to their employees.”
According to Lolley, full-time police and fire, and full-time telecom and dispatch workers in the police department’s dispatch center would receive a bonus of $2,500. Non uniformed, full-time city employees would receive a $1,500 bonus, and part-time uniformed and non-uniformed employees would receive $750.
Those eligible for the bonus would have been employed by the city between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, and were active full- or part-time employees as of Aug. 31, 2022.
Lolley said the total cost for the bonuses would be $1.63 million and would come from the city’s general fund. The funding is made available through city funds made available when federal reimbursements – made possible by the American Rescue Plan – offset city costs for some safety and security personnel.
Lolley is also proposing waiving medical, dental, and vision insurance premiums for three pay periods during December. He said the city’s health and wellness account has $6.3 million, which is around $2 million more than the previous four years of expenses.
“The amount of money in reserve far exceeds the amount needed for that account. As you and I have discussed, we would like to reward employees for helping control our costs by waiving the premiums the employees pay for medical, dental, and vision coverage for the three pay periods in the month of December,” Lolley noted in a Sept. 8 memo to Geffken. “The timing of this payment would result in a ‘bonus’ for employees during the holiday season. The amount of premiums not collected for the three pay periods would be approximately $238,000.”
Board members at the Tuesday study session expressed support for the bonus and insurance premium plan. The board is expected to vote Sept. 20 during its regular meeting on the bonuses and insurance premium holiday.