June 18, 2013 10:34:14 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Though an item regarding pay raises for Columbus councilmen is not listed on an agenda emailed to The Dispatch on Thursday, leaders do have the option of adding such a resolution before today's meeting.
Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong confirmed Monday that councilmen have the option to do so, but tonight is the current administration's last chance to approve raises before the new council takes its oath of office July 1. If the council does not take up the matter, discussion on pay increases cannot be held for another four years.
Currently, the annual salary of council members is $17,500.08.
Councilmen Charlie Box, Gene Taylor and Kabir Karriem said there had been informal discussions on the matter but have not discussed pay raises recently. They reiterated such an item was not on the agenda.
Box said the possibility still remains that the issue would come up and he would vote against it. He said he had heard talk of raising the salary to $22,000.
"Nobody's contacted me about it. If it's not on the agenda we can't take it up. It's got to be taken up tonight. They have to do it at this city council meeting because once the other council takes office you can't give a raise for four years. I wouldn't be surprised to see it on there. I've heard rumblings about it, but nobody has contacted me," Box said. "I wouldn't be for that because of the budget situation the city is in, and I think we're well compensated for what we do. We knew what the salary was when we ran for this term. If we weren't well compensated, that would be one thing, but we are. We're comparable to every other city our size in the state of Mississippi as far as pay goes.
"We've been up there four years and we've given our city employees a raise one time," he added. "Then, we're going to put this kind of raise on and we can't give our employees raises? It's just not right."
Councilman salaries are lower than the $18,000 West Point selectmen receive but higher than the $12,000 paid each year to Starkville aldermen. Earlier this year, Starkville aldermen approved a raise to $15,000 to take effect in the 2014 fiscal year. In Meridian, the city council president receives $22,000 while other council members receive $20,000. City council members in Tupelo are paid $16,932 annually. The council president receives $19,932.
Taylor said there had been discussion about raises across the board -- including appointed city officials and employees.
"I do know that it's not on the agenda," Taylor said. "As far as any conclusion on which direction the mayor and council are going in, that has not been decided. As of now, no one has spoken with me to say they want to put that on the agenda. As far as moving forward with that idea it has not."
Karriem agreed with Taylor's assessment.
"There was some discussion, but it wasn't ever put on the agenda so I didn't think anymore about it. I think it's a moot issue," Karriem said. "I've just heard it in passing...and I was waiting for the agenda to come out so I could see for myself if it was going to be on there but it wasn't."
Taylor and Karriem each declined to say whether they would be for or against a raise if a motion was made.
"There's a lot factors into that. There are some things I would have to get an understanding about before I could vote on something like that," Karriem said. "Whether somebody brings it up, I don't know. I won't be bringing it up."
Items on the agenda include routine council business, including monthly reports, board vacancy reports, approval of recommendations from the planning commission, consideration of a request of variance to install an automatic sprinkler system and a hearing on a dilapidated property.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.