PROVO City Council showed Provo employees the love Tuesday night as they unanimously approved a swath of resolutions to continue to cover their benefits.
In a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Cindy Clark absent, the council appropriated nearly $275,000 to continue to pay the full cost of city employees' health benefits, as well as to preserve employees' 5 percent pay-step increases.
Provo City Employees Association president Skip Tandy said he appreciated the city for working to maintain those benefits for city employees.
"We applaud everyone's efforts in making such a great outcome we have tonight," he said.
In May, Mayor Lewis Billings proposed a budget that would have trimmed city employees' pay grades and cut cost-of-living adjustments to cope with one of the tightest financial years the city has faced in recent history. Billings' proposed budget also recommended city employees start paying a portion of the rising costs of health benefits $60 for family coverage and $35 for single coverage per month.
Provo city employees were devastated by the recommendation, Tandy said. And, in June, he pled with the council to find a way to subsidize at least some benefits.
"Don't balance this budget on our backs," he said at the time.
The council sided with city employees and sent the mayor's proposed budget back to the drawing board to find money to sustain some of the benefits.
"We have to look after our own," councilwoman Midge Johnson said at the time.
As a result, Billings gave city employees their choice between two options: fund a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or cover health-benefit costs and maintain the 5 percent pay steps.
The city prepared and circulated an opinion poll to all departments last month so full-time employees could vote on the matter. The poll found city employees favored the second option by a margin of 389 to 132 a ratio of nearly 3-to-1. Employee participation in the vote was about 84 percent, said Provo chief administrator Wayne Parker.
"Which was a little better than the primaries," Parker joked.
Provo interim budget officer Denise Roy said the city loosened up funding for the benefits by shuffling money around and implementing temporary hiring delays.Before the council approved the resolutions, Councilwoman Cindy Richards expressed her love and appreciation for city employees.