Huntsville Mayor Battle proposes 5% salary increase for all city of Huntsville employees

By Paul Gattis

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle
(Paul Gattis | pgattis@al.com)

Mayor Tommy Battle wants to give city of Huntsville employees a pay raise that would be the largest during his time in office.

Battle will propose a 5% cost of living adjustment for all city employees as part of the administration’s 2023 budget that must be approved by the city council. The highest increase previously during Battle’s 14 years as mayor has been a 3% increase last year.

“It’s the big jump of looking at inflation and what inflation is doing to the average American citizen and looking at how to be a competitive workforce,” Battle said of his decision to push for the 5% increase.

Typically, the city has provided a 1-2% increase for workers before last year’s 3% bump.

“When you’re sitting and looking at 8-9%, inflation, we’ve got to make sure that our workforce keeps up with and is competitive with the workforce on the outside,” Battle said. “We’ve seen some employee who have been hired away from us and hired away for higher wages. And so I think this is one of the ways that we make sure that we maintain good employees. Our government is only as good as employees that we have.”

The cost of living adjustment, also known as COLA, is in addition to step raises some employees may be eligible for. Not all employees, however, are eligible for those step raises.

The COLA will cost the city between $6 million and $7 million, Battle said, and cover about 2,300 full-time employees. The mayor said he and his staff “looked long and hard at it” before committing to the proposal.

“It’s a necessity,” he said. “Your workforce is what makes your government what it is. You are only as good as your workforce. So you’ve got to maintain a good quality workforce out there.”

Battle described rising insurance costs as another “budgetary pressure” as well as maintaining a healthy fleet for garbage, police and fire among other city services.

The city may push some expenditures to next spring when the council conducts mid-year reviews of the budget and additional money may be available based on tax income over the first six months of the fiscal year.

The city council will hold a work session Sept. 15 to go through the budget and consider changes to the administration’s proposal. The budget is expected to be approved by the council by the end of the month ahead of the 2023 fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Battle also said the salary increase for city employees is a reflection of the city’s growth into Alabama’s largest – a growth showing no signs of diminishing. Huntsville’s population is almost 217,000, according to the latest census projections last year. Huntsville added more than 50,000 people from 2010 to 2020 – the largest total population gain in the state.

“We’re a growing city, we’re an expanding city,” Battle said. “Our borders have expanded some, but also our population is expanding, expanding about probably 4,500 to 5,000 people a year. And so as we grow as a city, we have to grow our workforce and grow our offerings in our services to match that growth.”