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New Positions at City Hall May Face Opposition from Some on Commission

The Covington City Commission is expected to vote Tuesday night on the reclassification of five people for positions in the city's finance department. Changes to the department were approved in December that reduced the number of positions in the department from thirteen to eleven. These reclassifications reflect that change.

The commission also previously approved the installation of new software that will ease the workload and efficiency of the department.

The positions include a revenue/collections manager at an annual salary of $55,000, an accounting/operations manager at an annual salary of $60,000, two auditors at annual salaries of $42,180, and a purchasing/office manager at an annual salary of $50,000.

"Finance has worked short for many years and has shared in the experience of reduced manpower," said finance director Bob Due at a city commission two weeks ago when the plans received a first reading. "We're excited and ready to meet new challenges but I think we're as bare bones as we can be."

Due said the reorganization of his department will save the city $170,000 a year.

Two city commissioners at the previous meeting raised questions about the decision to bring on new staff for the department. Commissioner Steve Frank argued that the department's work is being done effectively with its current staff of eleven and that the newly approved software will help with automation and reduction of workload.

Commissioner Michelle Williams also objected and argued that other departments in the city were forced to cut $500,000 from its budget for the current fiscal year, and the code enforcement department saw employees laid off, including its director. "Every department got hit hard," she said. "You started with eleven people and you still have eleven people."

Due argued that the eleven employees in the department was short of the thirteen budgeted for and suggested that more staff would benefit the city.

"We would like to provide more online access to to finances and better tools for forecasting," he said. "There's so much more as a department we can do." Due added that other cities the size of Covington have staffs similar in size to what he is requesting.

Williams challenged that, citing last year's Management Partners report that suggested the finance department in cities the size of Covington should have nine employees. "I challenged those numbers at the time," Due said.

Mayor Sherry Carran supports the changes. "Because of his closeness to our budget position, we had money in the budget to hire these people but (Due), being conservative, held back until seeing how everything would work out in the city."

Arborist position renamed, reappears on the agenda

Mayor Carran has long been in favor of hiring a full-time municipal arborist but when the issue was on the commission agenda in September, no other commissioner seconded Carran's motion and the issue died. During Carran's run for mayor, the issue also arose during her debate with fellow Commissioner Steve Casper, whom she defeated in November.

Carran is now the mayor and is still pushing for the position which has been renamed "municipal specialist". 

Crystal Courtney, who was the candidate for the job in September, is the candidate for the job again.

Courtney works as a seasonal employee in the Department of Public Improvements (DPI), currently utilized as a driver. "This is a not a new position, it's a reclassification" said city engineer Tom Logan in September. "What we have a is a part-time employee that we recruited from NKU. She's turned down three offers because she believes in this city. If we don't make this move we could lose this very valuable person."

The position's annual salary is $42,500.

Aside from Carran, Steve Frank is the only member of the previous commission that did not allow a vote on the arborist position, that is holds a seat on the current commission. Three votes will be needed to approve the hiring and the renaming of the position suggests that some form of compromise may have been reached behind the scenes.

NOTE: An earlier edition of this story indicated that the finance department staff would increase to sixteen with the addition of the five new employees. That is not correct. RCN regrets the error. Additionally, the five employees in the finance department are being reclassified to newly titled positions and responsibilities, making the work "hiring" somewhat misleading in the original edition. The word has been changed.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Covington City Hall/RCN