Elected officials' salaries were the main topic of discussion during the Committee of the Whole before Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Ward 8 Council Member Tommy Dawson proposed the idea of increasing the mayor’s salary from $16,000 per year to $45,000 per year. A vote to increase the salary could not occur Tuesday night, however, because an ordinance had not yet been finalized.
The Council did vote during the Committee of the Whole to have City staff draft an ordinance to raise the mayor's salary for the March 3 Council meeting. The Council also decided to hold a public discussion period before taking a vote to raise the mayor's salary.
The mayor’s salary has not been adjusted since 1998, said City Manager Jim Buston.
“I do think it’s unfair for the mayor to make $16,000 a year and do all he does,” Dawson said. “[To have] a good candidate representing the City of Auburn, you need to compensate a person for what they’re worth.”
Other cities typically pay their mayors between $25,000 and $35,000, Dawson said.
Auburn's mayor and Council members currently have to pay City taxes on their salaries. The city does not provide the mayor or Council members with benefits like health insurance, Buston noted.
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In order to compare Auburn to other cities, City staff took a sample of cities with council-manager forms of government — Auburn's form of local government — and compared what they paid their mayors. Auburn ranks slightly below the average in terms of mayoral salaries, Buston said.
Ward 1 Council Member Connie Fitch-Taylor brought up the possibility of also increasing compensation for Council members. Ward 3 Council Member Beth Witten suggested that pay be increased from the current $7,200 to $14,400 per year.
“Over the past five years, I’ve seen the amount of hours this Council puts in in our spare time,” Witten said. “We have to look at this as, 'Does the compensation meet the objectives of the position, regardless of who is in that role?'"
Ward 6 Council Member Bob Parsons said that a higher compensation would allow for a greater pool of applicants for City Council positions. The pay increase would allow people with full-time jobs to more easily join local government due to decreased financial concerns, Parsons said.
Ward 4 Council Member Brett Smith suggested a public hearing take place in regards to both the mayor and Council member compensations before any final decision or vote takes place. The Council agreed and voted to hold a period of deliberation and input from residents before voting on the salary increases at their March 3 meeting.
All Council members except Taylor voted in favor of asking City staff to draft an ordinance for the Council to consider regarding an increased salary for the mayor at their March 3 meeting. The Council voted to do the same for an increased salary for Council members.
“This is a whole month that you can reach out to the Council,” said Mayor Ron Anders. “Speak to us through email, call us and say, ‘I’d like to meet with you about this.’ Salaries are awkward conversations. They create a lot of discussion, a lot of opinions; I would ask that you share that with us.”
Any increase in compensation would not take effect until after the elections in 2022, after the end of the current terms, Anders said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article indicated the Council approved unanimously of salary increases Tuesday, Feb. 4. This article has since been changed to clarify the actions taken that Tuesday evening.
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