By Jeff Gallatin
With the tough economy still making things hot for city officials as they try to craft the municipal budget for next year, Mayor Debbie Sutherland and City Council are doing their part to cool the financial figures down.
Council, on Monday, approved foregoing a scheduled 1-percent pay raise for 2012 and 2013 and instead froze the salaries for the mayor and council at their current levels. By law, salaries for elected city leaders must be set before their terms begin. The scheduled 1-percent hike was approved previously, but the mayor and council members said the stagnant economy prompted them into declining the additional funds. The normal three readings for financial legislation was suspended to allow council to pass the measure
Administration and council leaders said the freeze is both fair and logical.
“We’ve been asking the employees to help out with the budget with the economy staying as tough as it is,” Sutherland said. “As the saying goes, ‘I wouldn’t ask anybody to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.’ So, I don’t think it would be fair to ask the employees to do something like taking a pay freeze unless I was willing to do it myself. I’m the mayor of the city, so I think it’s a good example to set to not take the 1-percent raise, and instead take a pay freeze for 2012 and 2013.”
City officials are working on negotiating new contracts with city employees.
Council President Brian Cruse said council members had discussed the potential freeze with the administration prior to Monday’s formal action.
“It’s the right thing to do for us as a council to take the freeze,” he said. “We’re on the same page as the administration with this. There was a pretty strong feeling on council to get this done.”
Cruse said the move by council is more than just symbolic.
“It is symbolic in that we can set an example by taking the freeze,” he said. “But there’s more to it than just that. It may be only a relatively small amount compared to some other items in the budget, but it is a positive financial move in a tight budget as we continue to look for ways to cut costs. It’s an action we can take to save money for the city as a council, so we took it.”
With the move, the mayor’s salary will remain at $80,350 through 2013. The council president’s will be $9,410 for the same time period, while both the four ward councilmen and two council-at-large members will stay at $8,058 through 2013.