The Pine Bluff City Council Administration Committee has recommended the City Council approve Mayor Shirley Washington’s request to raise salaries for two employees as she finalizes her staff.

Washington plans to make room in the budget by leaving openings for a grant writer and a purchasing agent unfilled for several months. That time will allow her to assess whether the positions are needed and in what capacity, she said at the committee meeting on Wednesday.

The committee also recommended the council approve raises for a juvenile assistant city attorney and police department office manager. It was the first meeting of the committee without former members Glen Brown Sr. and George Stepps, whose terms on the city council ended Jan. 1. Alderman Steven Mays, Alderman and Chair Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and remaining Alderman Thelma Walker now serve on the committee.

The largest salary increase Washington requested was a raise for the assistant to the mayor position from $32,637 to $55,000. The current salary was insufficient to hire a person with the proper qualifications, she said. The candidate she had in mind is highly educated, Washington said, and could do anything she needed her to do.

“I can hire a person for that,” Washington said. “But not the person with the qualifications that I would need to support me in this position.”

Washington said she felt the salary for the position remains low even with the proposed raise. She added that the mayor’s salary, which is $83,170, is “a bit low. But I’m OK. OK? I’m not asking for any increase there. But for [the assistant position], I can’t bring in a person.”

The mayor also requested a salary increase for the administrative assistant/secretary from $25,847 to $31,500. Washington said the employee she had hired has worked in the mayor’s office before, and was coming from another job in which she made a little more.

“I didn’t want to bring her in at less than what she was making,” Washington said. “So that was my rationale.”

Washington said she would wait five or six months to determine whether to ask the committee to fill the grant-writing and purchasing agent positions. The purchasing agent was approved in a previous budget, and she said she was still unsure whether to fill it. She said she was sure some agencies would need to have grants written, but there would not be a grant writer “per se” until she determined what the needs are.

“I’m too new in this position, I want to do a better assessment, I don’t want to have people that we don’t need,” she said. “If I come to you and say we need this position filled, I will be certain we need this position filled.”

The mayor’s original 2017 budget was $378,886. Despite not filling the grant-writing position, she included it in her proposed adjusted budget with a salary of $55,000, which would bring the budget to $381,055. In the meantime the vacant position will go unpaid.

The administration committee also recommended the council approve a budget adjustment to increase the salary of a part-time juvenile assistant city attorney from $30,000 to $35,000. City attorney Althea Hadden-Scott said while the position is considered part-time, the employee often ends up working late at court. The extra funds would be transferred from city accounts for office supplies, litigation and conventions and conferences.

The committee also recommended raising the salary for an office manager in the police department from $25,833 to $28,434. Assistant police chief Ivan Whitfield said the salary should have been $28,434 but was listed incorrectly.

The City Council will vote on the recommendations at a future meeting.