Beaumont should raise his lower salaries

Photo by Thomas Taschinger


Ada Sariah, left, and Scott Grant with the City of Beaumont' Street and Drainage Service fixed potholes along Madison Street Friday afternoon.  Pete Churton / The Company
Ada Sariah, left, and Scott Grant with the City of Beaumont’ Street and Drainage Service fixed potholes along Madison Street Friday afternoon. Pete Churton / The CompanyPete Churton / Pete Churton

Some jobs with the City of Beaumont require less skill than others, and therefore will pay less than other more demanding positions. Taxpayers understand this. But for a city the size of Beaumont, with an annual municipal budget of nearly $300 million, even the lowest-paid employees are expected to earn more than the lowest salaries. For General Counsel Albert “AJ” Turner and others, that means the floor should be raised for workers at the bottom of the pay scale.
Beaumont chief financial officer Todd Simoneaux told the council last week that the city had 96 employees in that lower range — about two dozen who earned $11 an hour, nine who earned $12, 34 who earned $13 and 27 who earned $14.
For any of these employees, especially those earning $11 or $12 an hour, it is virtually impossible to support a family on that income. Even if their accommodation was provided by a relative, there just isn’t much money in that salary to do more than the bare minimum in life.
Too many Americans struggle with salaries like that, but Beaumont City employees shouldn’t be in that group. It should be a point of pride for the region’s largest city that its workers earn wages that remain at least competitive with some fast food outlets at entry-level retail locations.
Yes, raising low wages will cost money.
Simoneaux said raising the city’s minimum wage to $12 would cost $35,000 a year, $13 would cost $110,000, and $14 would cost $365,000 a year. Fifteen dollars an hour, a benchmark sought by many labor and human rights activists, would cost the city $500,000 a year.
And Simoneaux pointed out that some city employees already earning $15.10 or $15.20 an hour might resent less-skilled employees who earn almost as much as they do. This could lead to pressure for further wage increases impacting the city budget.
Clearly, this is a question worth considering, and Turner offered a salary study to compare Beaumont salaries with other cities and local employers. The board should do this to get a better idea of ​​the big picture.
But even if a minimum wage of $15 an hour isn’t possible now, the board should lift the floor. Workers at the bottom deserve it, and it will reduce the turnover that inevitably accompanies lower-paying jobs.

It’s just the right thing to do, morally and financially.

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