HUNTINGTON — Members of Huntington City Council held the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday to raise the pay for their salaries and the mayor’s.
If approved, any pay increases would not take effect until after next year’s municipal election. Council members are required to address compensation for the mayor and City Council by ordinance every four years. During a Sept. 23 city Administration and Finance Committee meeting, city attorney Scott Damron said now is an appropriate time to address salaries before candidates begin filing in January for the 2020 election.
The proposal would change the mayor’s annual salary in 2021 to $114,500, and council members would see at least a 6% cost-of-living increase added to their base salaries. Mayor Steve Williams currently makes $85,000 a year, while the 11 City Council members each make $7,500 a year, which is $600 a month.
Before the item was moved on to a second reading, council members Joyce Clark and Alex Vence explained their reasons for supporting the wage increases. Both council members serve on the city’s Administration and Finance Committee.
Clark said council members have not seen a wage increase in at least 14 or 15 years. She also researched the salaries of several mayors and said the proposed pay increase was comparable and fair.
“Even at $114,500, that’s still low,” Clark said. “We felt we couldn’t do a larger jump at this time, but we felt that would be a reasonable amount.”
Vence, a property developer and owner of the West Virginia Building, compared the wage increases to an old lesson in business that you “get what you pay for.”
“I tried to save money by hiring the cheapest contractor, buying the cheapest paint, hiring the cheapest attorney or the cheapest bookkeeping service,” Vence said. “Every time I did that, it ended up costing me more to correct the results of my shortsighted frugality.”
Raising the wages of council members, and particularly the mayor’s, would ensure the positions attract the most qualified candidates and positively influence their behavior while in office, he said.
Council members may vote on the wage increases during an Oct. 28 meeting at the earliest.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, council members approved resolutions to purchase a new Dodge Ram, a backhoe and three dump truck chassis with dump beds for the Sanitary Board division. The equipment will help crews make necessary infrastructure upgrades around the city, including on Arlington Boulevard, said Brian Bracey, executive director of the Water Quality Board.
Council members also approved several board reappointments and one appointment:
- Alan Morrison, to be reappointed to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.
- Jim Rorrer, to be reappointed to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.
- John Stephens, to be reappointed to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.
- Joe Williams, to be reappointed to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.
- Jim Morgan, to be reappointed to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.
- Cathy Burns, to be appointed to the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority.
- Howard Anderson, to be reappointed to the Huntington Board of Zoning Appeals.
Monday’s regular City Council meeting was moved to Tuesday because of the Columbus Day holiday.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.