Lumberton city leaders approve budget with hidden pay raises for themselves

Updated: Sep. 24, 2019 at 9:14 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - There’s a new budget in place for the City of Lumberton and with it, city leaders are getting a bump in pay. How it came about it causing some taxpayers, like Sandy Kee, to question city leadership.

“I was shocked, especially after everything we’ve been through since March,” said Kee. “It should not have happened in the way it happened with it being done without the public being aware."

Back in March, the board of aldermen took away health insurance coverage from city employees and themselves in an effort to save money. City leaders said the plan was to give those employees a raise to help compensate for the loss of benefits. That raise didn’t happen until months later, and in the mix, the board proposed raises for themselves, listed as agenda items during board meetings. Those proposed raises for city leaders were met with public opposition. Because of that, they never passed.

This time around, the board did not list those raises as agenda items, therefore, there was no public discussion.

“I just don’t think it was done in the right way,” said Kee.

When asked whether she thought this was a way for city leaders to pass raises under the radar, Kee says it appears that way.

"I would hate to think that that’s what they did, but it appears that way. Why else would they have done it like that?” said Kee.

It happened during a special called meeting on Sept. 10, which consisted of the mayor and three of the five aldermen. The agenda for that meeting makes no mention of pay raises, but it does mention approving the city’s new budget, which was adopted.

News 7 Investigates took a look at that new budget, and after breaking down the numbers, uncovered it includes pay raises for the mayor and aldermen. According to numbers from city hall, board members and the mayor are set to get a $320 a month raise once the new budget kicks in Oct. 1. That’s $23,040 a year total.

Last week, Mayor Quincy Rogers agreed to an interview about the new budget. That interview never happened. After repeated calls, we simply got a text message from the mayor saying, “I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you back shortly.” That was Monday at 12:10 p.m. News 7 is still waiting on that call.

Here’s what the mayor did say back in June when News 7 questioned him about employee health insurance.

“The board took away the health insurance because of monetary constraints. So you know, as for the city, the city is experiencing, you know, some issues with our budget, so we had to make some cuts,” said Rogers.

“I have nothing against those people as individuals. I disagree with some of the ways that they’re running the city,” said Kee.

Kee said she’s not against city leaders getting a raise, but rather how it was done and during a time when the mayor says the city is facing “monetary constraints” and city employees aren’t provided health insurance.

“The way they went about it, I totally disagree with. I think it’s wrong, and the fact that they took away from someone else and turned around and give to themselves," said Kee.

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