Whatever negative feedback Lawrence city commissioners have received about huge commission salary increases, it isn’t enough to cause them to back off on the proposal.
An ordinance that will more than double the salaries for city commissioners and the mayor is on the commission’s Tuesday agenda for first reading. The proposal, which was first discussed in mid-December, appears to have the support of the necessary three commissioners. Barring a significant protest from local residents, the ordinance is on track for easy approval.
City commissioners currently receive a salary of $9,000 a year, and the mayor receives $10,000 — plus reimbursement for city-related travel expenses and the opportunity to participate in the KPERS retirement plan and the city’s health insurance plan. The ordinance calls for the annual salaries to rise to $20,000 for a city commissioner and $25,000 for the mayor, with the same benefits.
The ordinance would go into effect in April 2015, after the next City Commission election. Mayor Mike Dever and Commissioners Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm will complete their terms then and won’t benefit from the raise unless they are re-elected. Commissioners Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer will be in the middle of their terms and would receive the increased salary for their remaining two years in office. Because they would benefit personally, Amyx and Farmer abstained from the December vote to move forward on the salary ordinance. That’s good form, but from a practical standpoint it doesn’t matter as long as the other three commissioners vote for the raises.
It’s been 15 years since commissioners received a raise, and moderate raises would be justified. However, more than doubling the salaries in one swoop is too much and would put Lawrence city commission salaries well above those paid to commissioners in similar-sized and even some significantly larger Kansas cities. As we have noted previously, Lawrence city commissioners should be compensated for the time they must take away from their jobs or businesses, but serving on the commission isn’t a full-time job and salaries should reflect that.
The commission’s first discussion of the salary increases came after 11 p.m. on Dec. 18. The salary ordinance also is at the end of Tuesday’s agenda, but we trust commissioners will make sure the salary discussion takes place early enough to accommodate public comment, which also can be submitted in writing before Tuesday’s meeting.
Now is the time for local taxpayers to let commissioners know how they feel about these raises.