Aiken City Council gave interim City Manager Roger LeDuc the go-ahead to use a budget alternative to raise City employee salaries.

Council unanimously passed the 2014-2015 budget on final reading on Monday, and part of that budget includes raises for City employees paid from within the budget rather than from a tax increase.

The raises cover City employees and Aiken Department of Public Safety personnel.

“Currently, we (staff) recommend we use one-time reserves to balance the budget,” LeDuc said. “That's OK, but you cannot continue to use reserves to balance the budget.

“You either need to decrease expenditures or raise revenues, or both.”

Within the new salary option, all employees would receive a $500 pay increase, $159,250 in total. This option would also go into effect in October.

The option would also increase a Public Safety officer's base salary of $35,146 to $38,589. The proposed raise totals $194,697.

Included in the new budget is a hiring freeze of all existing and proposed positions. However, City officials do have the option to go back and consider unfreezing positions if they choose to, especially if that position becomes necessary.

While the vote to pass the budget was unanimous, Councilman Dick Dewar questioned LeDuc during an earlier budget work session on why the salary discussion didn't involve items including shift deferential, overtime policy and the patrol car take-home policy.

Mayor Fred Cavanaugh assured Dewar the issues he raised, and has raised in the past, are all good.

“We're to the point where if we like what we see, why can't we go ahead and approve this and move on these other things later?” Cavanaugh said. “That could take some time. In the meantime, we don't have a budget ... Time is of the essence.”

Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco told the Aiken Standard that Public Safety is very excited to see the raise, and that the raise is a step in the right direction.

“We appreciate Council's support and seeing the support to assist in the retention of officers,” Barranco said. “I do think this will help retain and attract. We've never had a problem attracting. You know, Public Safety has always had a large number of applicants. As I've said several times, this does help with retention as far as pay goes. Pay is not everything, but it's a large component.”

Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.