Archive for Monday, December 16, 2013

Lawrence city commissioners to consider increasing commission pay

December 16, 2013


It's been 14 years since Lawrence city commissioners received a pay increase, and some commissioners are talking about making up for lost time.

At their Tuesday evening meeting commissioners will begin discussing the possibility of more than doubling the $9,000 annual commission salary, which hasn't been changed since April 1999.

"I don't feel like this is about compensating me or the other people who are on the commission right now," Mayor Mike Dever said. "It really is about those people who may want to run for the commission but feel they can't because of the financial sacrifice they would have to make."

A specific increase hasn't yet been proposed, but Dever said he believes the conversation will include options that could range from about $19,000 a year to upwards of $30,000 a year.

A survey of eleven regional communities found most pay their commissioners the same as or less than Lawrence pays. The survey, compiled by the city manager's office, found the highest-paid commissioners in the region are in Kansas City, Kan., which pays commissioners $12,000 to $14,400 per year. The unified government also offers health insurance and a partial car allowance for commissioners.

Of the 11 communities surveyed, only three — Overland Park, Kansas City and Topeka — paid more than Lawrence. Although not included in the survey, Douglas County commissioners make about $33,800 per year and are eligible for the county's health insurance and pension plans.

Lawrence city commissioners can buy individual health insurance for $130 a year, and are eligible for the pension plan, but Lawrence does not offer commissioners a car allowance.

Dever said he will propose that no pay increase be granted to any current city commissioner unless the commissioner is re-elected.

Aron Cromwell, who was leaving the commission after not seeking re-election, raised the idea of a salary increase in April. Cromwell said a higher salary would encourage a broader diversity of candidates, particularly people who are in jobs that would require them to take off work to serve.

Currently, four of the five commissioners are business owners, while the other is the director of a nonprofit agency.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he was open to the idea of changing commission salaries, as long as none of the salaries would be changed before the next election. He said the idea of making the position more attractive to a variety of residents is important. Plus, Amyx said the job is time consuming.

"It doesn't take very many issues before you are spending 20 to 30 hours per week at it," Amyx said.


Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

Actually their salary needs to be dropped to zero. They receive some very nice compensation from the local developers they rubber stamp plans for all the time.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Another recent thread covered this issue. The current pay for Lawrence commissioners is already above average for similar communities in this region. The fact is the commissioners are paid better than commissioners from several larger communities surrounding us. If they are already better paid than most commissioners why are they discussing doubling or tripling their pay? Why do they get to decide their own pay?

I am throwing a flag on the comment that they are spending 20-30 hours per week on commission work. They should have to provide more objective documentation to support that claim before anyone buys it.

Also the claim that more pay will increase diversity on the commission doesn't prove true. Look up the commissioner's bios from the other few cities that pay more. They are primarily self employed as well. Also there are two teachers in Manhattan and a nurse in Olathe, both communities pay less than Lawrence does currently. So increased pay doesn't do as they claim.

If one looks up the data the mayor of KC makes $85k but is full time. The mayor of Overland Park makes $24k and Topeka $20k. The commissioners make $12-14k in KC and OP and $10k in Topeka. OK, increase the mayor some, but why increase the commissioners to $20-30k? There is no reason provided why our commissioners deserve to be paid so much more than everyone else.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

If being a city commissioner is such a hardship why do the commissioners keep running for reelection? No one in their right mind keeps running for an office that is terribly unpaid and overworked. If they are losing significant income by being a commissioner why do it and fight to get reelected? If our commissioners are overworked and underpaid ( remember our commissioners make more than most similar communities in the region) why are the other communities paying even less than Lawrence? Are we supposed to believe that all communities in this region are grossly underpaying their commissioners?

If the commissioners state they are overworked and underpaid but they do it as their civic duty then let them continue their civic service at the current pay or they can resign and we can get new ones that want to do their civic duty at the current pay. There are always more people running for commissioner than there are open positions so it would seem easy to replace any that want to give up their seat.

Matthew Herbert 4 years, 6 months ago

There is voting yourself a pay increase and then there is voting to more than triple your salary. Quite the zero to sixty time there commissioners! Here's a honest proposal - if a vehicle allowance is the concern, perhaps the city should adopt a policy of giving each new commissioner a city issued vehicle upon election. Given that the city replaces those vehicles quite often anyway, perhaps as an added perk, upon exit from office the commissioner would be allowed to keep the vehicle as his/her own. A vote to increase pay to $30,000 would, over the course of one four-year non-mayor term, increase the city's cost per commissioner by $84,000. Giving them a vehicle on the other hand would be a nice bonus and simultaneously solve our vehicle allowance crisis, and cost the city an increase of less than $25,000 over the course of an elected term. Re-elected commissioners would cost the city no additional financial burden. AND since of course no commissioner would ever want to drive around in a 16- year old car, it would impose a form of "unofficial" term limits.

Phil Wente 4 years, 5 months ago

It amazes me how funds get cut for special populations yet the city can find money to raise salaries for things like this. I've been providing free services to the city for a few years now but I may just have to rethink things if they allow this to happen.

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