Wednesday, June 7, 2017

City council discusses pay raise, adopts new budget

The Midway City Council agreed informally last night to draft an ordinance that would greatly increase the salaries of the mayor and council elected next year. If the council adopts the recommendation of the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, members of the next council would get $400 a month, up from $50; and the mayor would get $1,000, up from $100.

Council Member Sara Hicks, chair of the committee, said she had "received favorable feedback. Many people approached me and said they thought it was a good idea," in light of the increased workload of city officials, especially with the Midway Station project. But Council Member Libby Warfield said she's having difficulty with her own opinion.

"It is a touchy subject," Warfield said. "This is a larger increase than I think anybody I talked to ever would have expected, and I'm trying to work on my own to justify it, but I'm not having a whole lot of luck."

"I'm torn as well," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Warfield said she has less problem with raising the mayor's salary because the office has a four-year term and council members' terms are two years. For them, "You could increase it some and then watch that workload and the increase it some more after two years," she said. "We wouldn't have that luxury with the mayor's position."

Hicks said she had recommended to her committee that the mayor's salary be $20,000, but the committee "encouraged us to be more prudent. . . . Given the amount of the work the mayor's doing, twenty thousand would just be a beginning ... and could be raised as the job becomes more demanding. . . . I'm real concerned with the burden on our mayor."

Council Member Steve Simoff said a recent email from Warfield about her work as chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee showed council members need to be paid more. But Warfield replied, "It just feels like it's a really big leap."

Hicks said that as a member of the council and other boards related to her council work, she attends five to eight meetings a month and also spends time preparing for the meetings. "The good thing is, we're all like excited about our town," she said. "That's really a good problem to have, but I don't think there's a problem with us being reimbursed for that."

McDaniel noted that the committee used other cities in the Bluegrass as a guideline, but Warfield said the average salaries in the six Kentucky towns most similar to Midway average $6,000 for the mayor and $1,900 each for council members.

Hicks said that's not the whole story. "The difference is how active these towns are in their regions and how active their regions are in the state," she said "We are in one of the most active regions in the state and for the size of our town we're one of the most active towns."

Joseph Coleman, research director for the Kentucky League of Cities, said in an email to the Midway Messenger last month that in "cities of similar size to Midway (1,000-2,999 population), the median annual pay for mayors was $6,600 and for legislative body members was $1,200 in Fiscal Year 2016," which ended last June 30.

Vandegrift ended the discussion by saying he had wanted to get "a straw-poll consensus" from the council, and said he would ask City Attorney Phil Moloney to draft an ordinance with the raises.

In other business, the council adopted the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Vandegrift said that was the end of "the smoothest budget process I've ever seen." For a copy of the budget, click here.

Vandegrift said the removable speed bumps recently installed on East Stephens Street need to be smaller, and promised to tell the council that "every two weeks" because "It's only a matter of time before they cause some injury to somebody." The council meets on first and third Mondays.

The mayor said most of the city's first subsidized sidewalk repairs have been completed, but work at the corner of Bruen and Winter streets will require removal of trees, which will need approval from the state Transportation Cabinet because Winter is a state right of way.

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