By a slim margin, Independence City Council approved pay raises in two years – which would nearly double the salary for the mayor and council members.
The vote was 4-3, with Karen DeLuccie, Scott Roberson and outgoing Council Member Marcie Gragg voting against the raises. Curt Dougherty, Chris Whiting, Tom Van Camp and Mayor Eileen Weir voted in favor.
The ordinance would increase salaries to $40,000 for the mayor and $20,000 for the six council members, as well as a $500-per-month car allowance for each person. It cannot take effect until April 2018, as the City Council cannot vote on its own salary. The vote took place before Monday's changeover, as John Perkins replaces Gragg as the District 1 representative. Dougherty, Roberson and Van Camp won re-election in their respective districts (Van Camp was unopposed, and Gragg chose not to seek a third full term), and the current terms of Weir and at-large council members DeLuccie and Whiting expire in April 2018.
The last time the council acted on salaries was November 1999, when it set salaries at $20,000 for the mayor and $10,000 for council members, with $500 increases every four years. Those increases will continue.
The city's 2015-16 operating budget listed the mayor's salary at $24,999 and council members at an $11,500 average ($69,000 for six positions). The council still could rescind the ordinance before the raises go into effect, if the future budgets experience a bigger crunch than anticipated.
DeLuccie said she did not believe the raises would be appropriate given raised service fees, unfunded positions and non-represented city employees she believes deserve raises.
Before his vote, Roberson listed some pros and cons. With municipal electric, health, water and wastewater departments in the fold, Independence's City Council has “much more on its plate than Blue Springs or Lee's Summit.” Furthermore, he said, 19 years is a “significant time” without a raise.
However, given the struggles to balance the upcoming fiscal year budget, he didn't want to do the same in the future, and like DeLuccie he believed some city employees should be considered before the council.
“I think it would be more appropriate to see how this year's budget shakes out,” Gragg said, adding that there had been little prior discussion about the matter among council members.
Weir said she believed the process to arrive at the pay raises was thorough.
“Our city manager and city staff have been systematically looking at our department and trying to keep it with the market,” she said.
Assistant City Manager Zach Walker said last week that the city's human resources department regularly surveys relative city salaries with those from 10 to 12 municipalities on both sides of the border in the Kansas City metro region in an attempt to achieve some balance in Independence's figures.
The proposed figures in the ordinance, Walker said, are “very, very indicative of the average.”
Lee's Summit's city council recently approved a pay raise for its future mayor from $18,000 to $30,000, along with hikes from $7,800 to $11,400 for council members (extra $100 per month for the mayor pro tem) and $150 to $250 per month for car allowances. Lee's Summit also hadn't raised those salaries since 1999.
The Blue Springs mayor’s salary is $18,000 per year, with the mayor pro tem at $9,800 and other council members at $7,800.
In much larger Kansas City, the mayor’s salary is $123,156 and council members make $61,572. In Overland Park, Kansas, the mayor receives $32,000.