Should council begin receiving pay for service to city?
Mayor hopes to reinstate compensation for what is now a volunteer position
Photo: City of Valdez website
Mayor Larry Weaver is leading the charge to reinstate compensating city council members.
Should elected officials in Valdez be financially compensated for serving on the city council?
Mayor Larry Weaver said he thinks they should.
For over twenty years, council members in Valdez have served without pay and Weaver said in late December that he believes it is time to revisit the concept.
"I'm driving that," Weaver said in a mid-December council meeting. "I feel that in the past the stipend was taken away from council members and it should be put back."
Council member Jim Shirrell asked who was behind a memo passed out to council members in 2015 that outlined compensation paid to elected officials.
Weaver said he asked the city clerk to put together a survey of pay and stipend schedules for mayors and council members of other Alaska communities as a starting point for Valdez to revisit the concept.
Shirrell noted at the meeting that Valdez voters had given a firm thumbs down to council and mayor pay or stipends in advisory votes in past elections.
"This seems to be percolating behind the scenes," Shirrell said, "There has been no community discussion."
Weaver said referendums on ballots are not legally binding and are advisory in nature - it is not a vote of the people.
Shirrell did not agree.
"Two times it has basically been put down," he said. "I do think it's a community decision," then added "the community has told us two times they do not support it."
Weaver said any kind of financial pay would have to come before a council vote in the form of a resolution and would be a public process.
Council member Nate Smith said the amounts and structure of pay for elected officials varied greatly according to the memo, and ranged from $200-$500 per month, with some councils paying $75 - $100 per meeting.
"Its not something that's out of control, or high numbers that we're talking here," Smith said.
Weaver said he knew of a council member who did not run for reelection because of the expense involved in serving.
"It was cost prohibitive," he said. "...gave up a lot of time."
Council members are issued city debit cards they are allowed to use to pay for expenses directly related to council business, but hidden costs such as taking time off from work or paying baby sitters to attend council meetings or other city business are not covered - it is volunteered.
During the meeting, Weaver talked extensively about the several trips to Anchorage regarding the city's status in the TAPS mediation issues he took, being called to emcee duty for the community Christmas show and a large numbers of meetings in between such as December's town hall meeting regarding marijuana legalization issues and the closure of Aleutian Village Trailer Park.
Ten years ago, the sitting council voted to pay themselves a stipend of $75 per meeting - a move that proved unpopular to a large segment of the Valdez population.
Council members received stipends for one meeting before they themselves repealed the resolution they had passed authorizing the payments after voters in the municipal election overwhelmingly voted against favoring payments.
Council stipends were first repealed in the early 90s.