so, the City Council voted itself a pay raise, seriously?

Yes, in a manner of speaking, at our City Council meeting this past Wednesday night, we approved a salary increase for elected officials (8 alderpersons and the mayor). These types of things typically only get headline coverage in the press, so I want to make sure you understand the whole story.

First, our current salaries. We alderpersons make $6,392 per year, while the mayor makes $22,299.

The issue of salaries for elected officials comes before the council for a decision every year. So let me give you some history. If we go back a few years to 2001, the council received a 3% increase 2 years in a row. Then for the next 6 years (2003-08), there was an increase of 1.5% each year. State statutes require that our current salary goes through spring of 2015. So if we take the next 6 years in the sequence (2009-14), there was a 0% increase. That’s right, no increase for 6 years in a row.

So, fast forward to our last city council meeting on Tuesday, December 18. The salary issue came before us. 7 of us (including me) voted to keep the salary the same while Ald. Donovan voted against. I voted to keep it the same simply because I don’t need the raise, and I didn’t feel right about asking the taxpayers for more money. But since the decision was not unanimous, it had to come back for 2nd vote at the next meeting, which was Wednesday, January 2. I’m glad Ald. Donovan originally voted against, as it gave me more time to think about the whole issue before our January 2 vote.

In the mean time, I asked our human resources director for the history of our salaries, which I explained above. Then, when the issue came up at our meeting this week, I made the motion to amend it from a 0% increase to a 2% increase.

My thinking is this. While it’s certainly a noble gesture to keep our salaries the same, it’s just not responsible to go many years in a row without an increase. Instead of thinking of this as our own salaries, we have to be more objective than that. We have to think about what this position is worth to the taxpayers of De Pere. We also talk often about encouraging more of our neighbors to run for public office; of the 4 council races this spring, 3 are uncontested (again). And if we want good people to step forward and throw their hat in the ring, we have to offer a fair pay. After all, if you’re doing the job properly, it does take a small chunk of time, it takes you away from your family, and it prevents you from taking another part time job.

Also, as I eluded to above, state statue says that any salary decision we make now cannot take effect until May 1, 2015. This insures that none of us are actually voting for our own current salaries, but instead, we’re deciding the salary for the 2015 city council. Based on how future elections turn out, it’s possible that none of us will be on the council at that time.

So, my motion passed, and our salaries will indeed go up by 2% beginning in 2015. If you’re interested, you can read more details in the January 2 packet on pages 18-22.

I hope this background on my thinking is helpful. And more importantly, I hope you think that you’re getting your money’s worth from your alderperson. As always, I welcome your comments.

UPDATE: Alderman Dan Robinson also wrote about this issue in his blog entry, “City Council Salaries“.