Mayoral candidates discuss pay plans and how to fund them

Mayoral candidates discuss pay plans and how to fund them
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Region 8 News hosted the Jonesboro Mayoral Debate of Record Tuesday night at Jonesboro High School.

All six of the candidates vying for the mayor's position were there to answer a variety of questions. Each of the candidates was given a chance to speak first on issues pertaining to Jonesboro and the surrounding area.

One of the main topics of the debate was pay for city employees, and how the city can sustain three new pay plans that could cost the city millions.

Nathan Coleman, one of the Jonesboro police officers to lead the charge in increasing officer salaries the past few years, didn't touch on how to pay for the plans but stressed that it has to be done.

"I can't feed my family on hopes and dreams. But, with this, we can actually start to move forward, start to retain officers, retain firemen and promote ourselves as a city, as a Class 1 city," Coleman said.

John Street, who serves on the city council and voted for the police pay plan in September, said the plans are pertinent to the well-being of Jonesboro. He said for a time, they can be funded through reserve funds.

"Finances are about 6.5%, 6.3% or 6.5% above where they were this time last year," Street said. "We may have to cut some other things but I'd try that first, spending down on reserves."

Mayor Harold Perrin, who said he is for the pay plans but also warned the city council that they may have consequences, reiterated that point Tuesday night.

"Look at it very methodical because I will bring you back a balanced budget but you may not like what you see," Perrin said. "But we, by state law, have to have a balanced budget."

Harold Copenhaver said he was in favor of the plans but was concerned with how to pay for it.

"We will also have to come forth and say, if we can't pay for it, then we're going to have to cut wasteful spending," Copenhaver said. "We have to be efficient and transparent."

Thomas Elwood said people are more important than buildings, but as a businessman, the cost is a concern.

"You have to make a budget every year and you have to live within that budget. If your pay scale reaches a certain level, your budget cutter is going to lay off the highest paid personnel," Elwood said.

Lastly, Amanda Dunavant said that employees should be the city's number one concern.

"It's not the fancy-schmancy, beautified Jonesboro, it is to keep your employees happy and to keep them paid no matter what you have to do, even if you have to give your own salary up," Dunavant said.

The candidates also answered questions about the city's infrastructure and how to pay for it, dilapidated buildings, annexation, and the two convention centers coming to town.

To view the full debate, or watch the candidates answer a specific question, click here.

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