City considers pay-raise vote

Councilors say more money could mean more people participating in local government

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Enticing more candidates to the ballots is why current Craig City Council members say they want a pay increase for future council members.

At the request of the council, City Attorney Sherman Romney is researching options for increasing the $200-a-month wage members receive.

Councilor Bill Johnston broached the subject during the council's annual budget workshop Oct. 3 and it was well received by other council members.

"I personally am not in it for the money, but down the road it might attract some people to get involved for better compensation," Mayor Dave DeRose said.

The city charter sets the council's pay rate so it can only be changed by a vote. Council members have received $2,400 annually and the mayor $3,600 annually since the city's charter was adopted in 1975. Before that, councilors and the mayor were paid $5 a month.

Johnston said he would like to see the wage increased annually at the same rate city employees get as a cost of living increase. This year that was 4 percent.

"I'm thinking of taking care of future councils," he said. "It's damn near voluntary and volunteerism is going away. I don't think anyone sitting on the council is there for the money.

Johnston estimates he spends five hours a week on council business, including regular meetings and board meetings for which he is a liaison.

Each council member is required to attend council meetings and be a representative on at least two boards.

Councilor Don Jones said he spends anywhere from five to 20 hours a week on city business.

"You get out of it what you put in," he said.

He said council members attend at least one meeting a week, some of those in other towns.

"If you count doing homework for those meetings and travel, that's six hours a week for just one meeting," he said. "It's not just coming to a meeting on Tuesday night, showing up for a couple hours, and calling it good."

He said increasing the amount council members are paid might generate more interest in filling the position in the future.

"You might get more people involved in the future, but for right now it doesn't matter to me. I'm not in it for the money," he said.

Johnston said he raised the question of giving council members raises when the board had a vacancy to fill.

"I thought, 'What if we don't have anyone apply?'" he said. "Certainly no one could make a living on (what the council would be paid), but it could be an enticement.

"I think for future councils, we ought to look at it, not necessarily for me, but for others," he said. "We are not interested in giving ourselves a raise."

Romney said he hasn't decided whether to draft a ballot question and present it to the council or release a memo outlining the council's options.

"We could put a delay date on the question so it doesn't seem self serving," he said.

In order to get the question on the April 2003 ballot, the council would have to approve a resolution by January, Romney said.

Christina M. Currie can be contacted at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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