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.