Panel OKs Main Street budget hike

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council has reached an informal consensus to increase the salary of the Main Street Covington director and add a part-time position as part of a proposed expansion of the organization's scope of work.

At a budget work session Monday night, the consensus was to increase Director Josephine Kelly's pay by 5 percent with an opportunity for an additional 2.5 percent raise after six months. It was also agreed to keep a part-time position, with a salary of $15,000, in the budget.

Kelly currently makes $60,548.80 annually. The 5 percent raise would put her salary at $64,480. The 2.5 percent raise, effective after six months, would increase her annual salary further to $65,280.00. The overall Main Street budget would increase from $82,910.84 to $102,012. That does not include the approximately $65,000 in hotel/motel tax revenues estimated to come in for fiscal year 2010-2011, which is used by Main Street for program expenses.

When an informal consensus was taken at the budget work session Councilwomen Ocie Franklin, Hawnethia Williams and Janet Goodman were in favor of the changes, while Councilmen Keith Dalton and Chris Smith were opposed. Councilman Mike Whatley recused himself because his wife, Billie Jean Whatley, is chair of the Main Street Board of Directors.

City Manager Steve Horton emphasized that formal approval from the city will not come until the budget is officially approved.

"The increase in pay was associated with the expectation that the director would perform the new duties as suggested by the Main Street Board," Horton said.

Half of the pay increase and part-time help costs would be paid for by Newton County and "no one has provided me with their formal decision on the two issues in question," Horton said.

Newton County Administrative Officer John Middleton said the county received the information on the Main Street program Wednesday and the Board of Commissioners has made no final decisions on the fiscal year 2011 budget.

A proposal from Main Street Board of Directors Chair Billie Jean Whatley, calls for the creation of an Office of Community Services and Downtown Development and the expansion of the downtown district to include the Pace and Elm street corridors.

Kelly's new title would be director of community and downtown services and her position would be a hybrid between economic development manager and Main Street manager.

Whatley said the Main Street office "has had to assume an increasing scope of work beyond what is conventionally considered downtown development and falls more within classification of community services."

Main Street has been a partner in Livable Center's Plan for U.S. Highway 278; the Covington Urban Redevelopment Authority; the community housing initiative; and other ventures, as well as collaborating with the Chamber on economic development efforts such as growing the tourism initiative and implementing the Buy Local program, Whatley's letter states.

Originally, the Main Street Board of Directors requested a salary increase of about 20 percent, or $13,800, for Kelly, but a majority of council members were opposed.

Horton previously told the Citizen part-time help was necessary in order to have a back-up person when the director is out for annual leave or sick leave or attending to program responsibilities.