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Council set to cut at-large salaries 5 percent

            City Council members are preparing for a budget repeat.

            A plan to cut the three council-at-large positions annual salaries 5 percent to $12,655 for the four-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2012 and running through 2015, is set for final reading at the regular council meeting next Tuesday.

            Acting as a committee-of-the-whole, council recommended the pay cut Feb.  8. If given final approval at the council meeting, the cut would equal the 5 percent cut given to the mayor, finance director, council president and four ward members two years ago for their current four-year term, which is in its second term.  Salaries for city officials must be set by the calendar year before their terms begin.

            When the initial salary cuts  were made in 2009, council members said it was an attempt to show leadership and help the city deal with the budget crunch caused by the massive economic downturn at the time.

            Although he was on a long-planned vacation  when the committee meeting was held, Council Finance Committee Chairman Paul Barker said Friday he’s glad the rest of council moved forward on giving the at-large members the same pay cut other members and administration officials received two years ago.

            “I applaud my fellow council members for following through on the pay cuts for officials,” he said. “It’s something that we think needs to be done considering the economic circumstances. There are a lot of people in the city who have had to deal with one in their lives as well. In our case, it’s a few hundred dollars, but it’s the principle and the fact that we should show leadership in this area.”

            Mayor Kevin Kennedy, who was city council president at the time the first cuts were made, also sees the cut as the right move for the city.

            “We’ve got to continue to show leadership when it comes to this issue,” he said. “We’re not in the position as a city where we can be adding anything to elected officials salaries right now. They were fair about it and made it the same as the other ones.”

            During discussion, council members discussed other possible options, such as feezing wages, making a different cut or only cutting the salary the first two years, then possibly raising the salary again.

            In recommending the 5 percent cut, the council members decided to make the cut for the full-four year term, as was done two years ago.

            “We can’t predict where the economy is going to be in two years,” At-large member Angela Williamson said. “It wouldn’t be good to schedule raises in two years and then find the economy hasn’t improved enough to justify it.’

            Fellow at-large members Kevin Kearney and Mark Mahoney also questioned the wisdom of   only a two-year cut, noting the financial difficulities many people continue to deal with.

            Council members also discussed whether it would be possible to have all members salaries at the same amount in the same time period. However, no action was taken on that with the officials present, noting that trying to schedule that would be more difficult since the at-large members elections and those of the ward members, council president and administration are separated by two years.

 

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