The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Pay for sitting on council topic included during work session

Proposal would not go into effect until after this May's election cycle

 

Source: City of Valdez

A quick look at stipends paid to council members and mayors of some municipalities in Alaska.

Formal discussions on paying council members and the mayor for performing the duties of office is moving forward.

The topic was included in a work session before Tuesday's regular council meeting. The work session agenda included possible changes to the city charter that would be put before voters. The main changes are an increase in the residential property tax exemption (that would lower residential property taxes) and possibly increasing city council terms to three years, up from the current two-year terms of service.

The city clerk, Sheri Pierce, included information on paying city council and the mayor in the work session agenda.

The move to reinstate stipends for council is spearheaded by Mayor Larry Weaver, who asked the city clerk to compile a list of stipends paid to council members and mayors of other Alaska municipalities - with an eye towards reinstating council and mayor stipends in Valdez.

Elected office in Valdez is currently treated as a volunteer position.

It has been about a decade since council members voted to pay themselves a stipend of $75 per meeting, and $100 per meeting for the mayor. A similar scenario played itself out in the 1990s.

The ordinance paying council and the mayor proved unpopular with the public; an referendum vote in that year's municipal elections advised council to repeal the pay ordinance.

The current council and mayor were not in office at that time.

Weaver said it is time to revisit the concept.

Pay for elected office is spelled out in the city charter, which merely states that any recompense paid to council and the mayor is to be set by ordinance and that it may only go into effect after until the next elections after the ordinance is passed. In Valdez, that is the month of May each year.

The city clerk included the language in the city charter that addresses compensating council members and the mayor.

"The compensation of the mayor and councilmen shall be determined by ordinance. No increase in the compensation of the mayor and councilmen shall take effect until the council meeting following the first general city election after the increase is ordered," the city charter says.

Actual changes to the city charter require a vote of the public, but the current charter clearly states that council and mayor pay is set by ordinance.

Ordinances are passed by a simple majority vote of the city council.

Proponents of pay point out that serving a term on council or as mayor is time consuming, requiring a great deal of reading for meeting preparation and is not limited to attending regularly scheduled meetings twice a month.

Opponents state that the mayor and council members chose to run for office and knew that it is a volunteer position. They also point out that council pay was also disapproved by voters twice.

The matter is expected to come before council in the coming weeks.

 

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