Archive for Thursday, December 19, 2013

Editorial: City salaries

The big raises planned for Lawrence city commissioners are out of line.

December 19, 2013

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When Lawrence city commissioners decide to do something about commission salaries, they don’t mess around.

On Tuesday, commissioners directed city staff to draw up an ordinance that would more than double city commissioners’ pay after the April 2015 election. Currently commissioners are paid $9,000 a year, and the mayor receives $10,000 a year. The new pay rate would be $20,000 for commissioners and $25,000 a year for the mayor.

Several justifications have been offered for the raises. Commissioners say they have to take significant time away from their jobs or businesses to conduct city business and they should be compensated for the loss of revenue that may result from that absence. Higher salaries also are needed, they say, to ensure that people from all socio-economic groups in the city feel able to seek a seat on the commission. And, finally, they point to the fact that the commission hasn’t received a raise since 1999, nearly 15 years ago.

All of these arguments are understandable — to a point. However, adding $55,000 in commission salaries to the city budget in one fell swoop is extreme. Commissioners should — and already do — receive reimbursement for city-related travel expenses. They also can participate in the KPERS retirement plan and the city’s health insurance plan. However, being a commissioner isn’t designed to a full-time job and commissioners shouldn’t expect their elected posts to replace their primary employment or salaries.

Even though Lawrence city commissioners hadn’t received a raise in 15 years, their salaries were not out of line with those in a number of other communities included in a survey cited in Tuesday’s commission agenda. Lawrence commissioners already make more than commissioners in Emporia, Salina, Lenexa, Manhattan, Olathe and Hutchinson (which pays its mayor and council nothing). Topeka pays its council members $10,000 a year and its mayor $20,000, but it has a strong-mayor form of government that gives that office significant added responsibility. Overland Park, which is more than twice the size of Lawrence, pays its council members $12,000 and its mayor $24,000.

Based on those comparisons, it’s hard to justify the large raises commissioners plan to approve. They obviously think the raises are overdue, but it still makes sense for them to seek more moderate, and perhaps more frequent, raises — if they think they are justified.

The commission didn’t take up the salary issue until after 11 p.m. Tuesday, but a couple of members of the public stuck around to voice their support of the raises. No one spoke against the raises, but the ordinance isn’t scheduled to come back to the commission for approval until next month so there’s still time for Lawrence residents to express their opinion. We want our elected commissioners to receive adequate compensation, but the salaries they have tentatively approved are out of line.

Comments

John Graham 1 year, 6 months ago

I whole heartedly agree with the editorial. A modest raise to be in line with Topeka or Overland Park might be reasonable. What the commissioners are doing is giving themselves a raise where they are making 67% more than Overland Park and double Topeka's pay. How are they justifying such outlandish pay when compared to other cities? They don't. They simply have decided that this is what they want. Dr Riordan offers a self serving statement that all the commissioners from other comparable communities are "grossly underpaid". Really? Every other community is taking advantage of their commissioners in a "grossly" exaggerated manner? I doubt it. If they are so "grossly underpaid" they can resign their seats. There are always more candidates than open seats at election time, so finding replacements should not be hard. I have no doubt they will pass the final vote when it comes around despite any complaints. By the time reelection comes around they are hopeful the voters will have forgotten about their self voted pay raise.

Commissioners have the duty to look out for the city's and it's inhabitants best interests. Doubling their own pay so that they are the best paid commissioners in the state (except for full time mayors) is NOT looking after the best interests of those they serve but simply a selfish unjustified money grab at the tax payers expense. Shame on them.

John Graham 1 year, 6 months ago

Shame on the citizens of Lawrence that vote for these commissioners at reelection time.

Tammy Copp-Barta 1 year, 6 months ago

Is this extravagant raise something that we, the voters, will be allowed to vote on - or will the commissioners - like our legislatures, take it into their hands to make themselves richer at the expense of others. I too understand giving them a raise - lets see at KU we're getting 1.5% - seems fair to me. Get in line with the rest of us - most people haven't had raises in years. ALSO - if working for the commission is such a hardship - then you need to find something else to do. There are others that will take your place - you are expendable.

Phil Minkin 1 year, 6 months ago

Some raise in salary is justified, (although the school board members put in plenty of hours for no pay) but this is too large an increase. Commissioners should be more modest in their raise and phase it in over several years.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

The current salary has not kept any of these people away and some just keep coming back. Comm Amyx has been around for about 30 years I believe it we take his time on the County Commission into consideration. It did not keep Comm Dever and Comm Shumm from coming back not to mention many others from doing multiple sessions.

I'm not sure salary is keeping others from running although may be a factor. Lawrence has become a government controlled by the big spending of special interest money usually related to the development/real estate industry. Which has increased our taxes by 100% over the years.

The monster expansion of our bedroom community and over loading the retail markets is not paying back......instead it is increasing taxes and shaking down our wallets. Fueled by helter skelter development and economic displacement = unfriendly to new small business and taxpayers.

Stop the beltway style runaway spending on local campaigns! Stop voters from consistently voting for the largest spenders ! Both are monster threats to their expendable cash reserves.

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