Pay increase a curious move, but town faces bigger issues

Bruce Alderman Gary Edwards summed it all up when he said “we just spent 30 minutes discussing something that shouldn’t have taken 10 minutes.”
The board was contemplating a pay raise for themselves, but struggled for a while to get someone to pull the trigger on a motion. After a lot of beating around the bush, John Earl Armstrong finally made a motion, and the board approved a $50 per month increase with Alderman Lyn Parsons casting the lone dissenting vote. Parsons made it clear, however, he didn’t object to the increase, just the timing.


In the big scheme of things, a $50 pay raise for the board isn’t that big of a deal to me. It will cost the town just over $3,000 a year, which isn’t a big chunk of change when you’re working with a $1.4 million budget.
It’s odd, however, that the board would take this action a week after completing what were sometimes contentious negotiations on the FY12 budget in which they denied pay raises for all town employees  and asked all departments to cut back 15% on their budgets.
The board voted down a pay raise for themselves last year by a 3-2 vote. Aldermen Steve Nelson and Gary Edwards opposed the pay raise at that time because the motion by John Earl Armstrong was to double the pay from $200 to $400.
That would have been the more logical time to do it when they were raising everyone else’s pay (town employees were voted a raise last year). They simply should have reached some form of compromise on a lesser raise than doubling the salary.
But it’s been my experience compromise doesn’t come easy for this board, at least not without a lot of heartache.
I don’t know what the salary for aldermen should be, but a raise to $250 a month doesn’t really bother me. (I feel like I deserve a raise for sitting through all those meetings). There’s a lot of headache that comes with serving as a town alderman, and I don’t think $250 a month is unreasonable.
I have a bigger issue with the $111,747 deficit budget they passed. I realize it’s nearly impossible for a town government to spend every single line item down to zero every year and that it’s impossible to predict every expense that may arise over the course of the year, but that appears to be an awfully large number to me.
I would rather every additional penny (town officials estimate they carry forward a cash balance of approximately $200,000 every year) be put into repairing streets or the abundance of water/sewer issues around town.
We don’t want to fix too many streets until we can address the water/sewer issues to prevent tearing them up again, but we don’t have the money to fix the water/sewer issues, and big money grants are few and far between.
There are complications with the requirements that the water/sewer department must be self-supportive, and operate within its own funds, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
A $3,000 pay increase for the aldermen won’t break the town or prevent any repairs they choose to get done. They just have to choose to act.

You may email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com

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