Connell, Brooke

In this January file photo, Clinton City Councilman Sean Connell and City Administrator Matt Brooke listen to a speaker during a council meeting.

CLINTON — The Clinton City Council voted Tuesday to hold off on pay raises for non-bargaining employees in light of falling revenue from the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision followed a report from the city’s finance director predicting a $740,583 shortfall in revenue.

“It’s the council being fiscally responsible,” Clinton Mayor Scott Maddasion said Wednesday.

Pay raises were budgeted for 2019-2020 and would have begun July 1, Maddasion said, but the finance committee recommended delaying a decision of the pay increases because of falling revenue.

“We’re in an unprecedented time,” said Maddasion. “We’ve lost money from COVID.”

“[Raises] were budgeted,” Maddasion said Wednesday, “so we can make them retroactive if things get better.”

Holding the raises will save the city $71,000, City Administrator Matt Brooke said.

“I thought it was just bad timing,” Councilman Sean Connell, finance committee chairman, said. “We had just got done talking about a fiscal year ‘20 loss of $740,000. We projected almost a million dollar loss going into ‘21. Recently passed a franchise fee to try to cover that deficit.

“We didn’t know the effects of COVID when we passed the budget,” Connell said.

“It just didn’t sit well with finance committee at the time,” Connell said. The committee recommended holding the raises and reevaluating the city’s financial situation in October.

“We could make this retro active. It’s going to be for fiscal year ‘21 anyway. It’s already budgeted,” Connell said. “I don’t think the six month is going to hurt us there if we can come and look at this in the fall.”

The raises that the council postponed are for the non-bargaining employees. “I would love to see our union reps. come to the table and maybe hold off on the raises as well,” Maddasion said during Tuesday’s meeting. “The city is in a difficult place right now.”

Unions have agreed to freezes in the past, said City Attorney Patrick O’Connell. “When the budget problems occurred in 2008, I was bargaining that year, and I remember it vividly. There were discussions like that with the unions, and they did agree, not withstanding what their contracts said, to forego pay raises and things like that,” he said.

“I don’t know if we’re there. I don’t know if that’s really our situation,” said O’Connell. “but yes unions do that all the time when they think to themselves, we don’t want to have staff reduction,” he said.

“If that’s what we were facing, that’s exactly the conversation we would have with them because we would want them to have some buy-in and to have some say in what they wanted to see happen as well,” said O’Connell.

“I think it’s important to take a look at it too,” Councilwoman Julie Allesee said during Tuesday’s meeting. “And the reason is, we just implemented a franchise fee.

“I think we have to be very careful with what we do with money this next fiscal year to see what happens with the implementation of that franchise fee,” Allesee said.

Moving the decision to October gives the city time to see how the franchise fee works. “A lot of unknowns will become more known then,” said Brooke. “There’s a lot of things that can happen between then and now.”

Connell is also the liaison for Clinton County Development Association which distributes revenue from gambling.

The gaming industry is struggling, Connell said. “They just came back online, and they’re struggling.”

Sports betting was supposed to be big for casinos, Connell said, but there are no sports to bet on, so that revenue has been next to nothing.

“Right now they’re limited on what they’re able to do with slot machines,” Connell said. Table games are only beginning to reopen.

People who run a business understand that if they are losing money they can’t give raises, Connell said. “City government’s a little bit different. I understand that. But it doesn’t sit will with the folks that maybe ... are closing up their business ... due to this pandemic,” said Connell.

“It was a tough thing to swallow at the time. I think that’s why we decided to kick it ... back to the council and maybe look at it in the fall,” Connell said.