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How to keep a non-profit program for senior citizens running, and whether city employees should expect a 2 percent raise in their salaries instead of an annual bonus for the fiscal year of 2011-2012 were all addressed during the first public hearing of the City of Newberry’s 2011-2012 budget held Monday night.

City commissioners Robert Fillyaw and Alena Lawson opposed the budget reduction of the senior citizen program, Meals on Wheels, once residents in the meeting voiced their opposition.

Labeled as the Community Action Agency, Meals on Wheels shares a $22,000 budget with two other programs. The weatherization and temporary assistance program, which assists low-income families, would have been untouched, but Newberry’s Meals on Wheels would have been discontinued since it is funded primarily with this money.

Commissioners agreed that all funds for projects such as city fire works, listed to be around $2,000, and travel expenses for the city commission, around $6,530, would be redirected to the program instead.

Newberry residents also agreed with Newberry Fire Department Chief David Rodriguez about pay raises for city employees. He spoke out about not having a pay raise for several years.

“I’m working towards my retirement for the future, and I haven’t had a raise in four years,” he said.

Instead of having a one-time payout, which will only give city employees money for that particular year and does not contribute to retirement funds, Rodriguez said he would rather have a raise that would benefit him in the long run. The commission set aside $39,000 for the bonuses, but since the salary increase proposal ruled out the initial plan, the commission estimated that the budget would require an extra $6,000.

City commissioner Lois Forte agreed with Rodriguez about the raise, saying city employees are the backbone of Newberry.

“I think we have one of the best fire departments in the county,” she said. “If we can find money for other things, we can find money to give our employees a little raise.”

Initially the city budget had $6,280 in surplus funds, but it was all allocated to the pay raise.

Also on the agenda was the annexation of three properties, totaling nearly 39 acres.  City Commissioner Joe Hoffman did not vote as he owns two of the properties.

Projects such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and Triangle Park are still in the works, and the commission is requesting community input before final approval. A town hall meeting to discuss the projects is planned for Monday.