This spring, Huntersville town board members will receive their first raise in nearly a decade.Town manager Greg Ferguson said it’s been about 10 years since the last increase in board member salaries, and 2005 was the last time mayor and mayor pro-tem pay was adjusted.The board voted 4-2 at its Feb. 18 meeting to increase the annual salary for these elected officials effective April 1. Annual compensation for the mayor will increase from $10,500 to $14,000; mayor pro-tem from $6,800 to $8,500 and commissioners from $5,000 to $8,000 per year.Ferguson said compensation has been an ongoing conversation for the board during the past year and was discussed at the board retreat this month.Ferguson said Mayor Jill Swain and the board looked at the salaries of elected officials in municipalities with similar population such as Hickory, Chapel Hill, Kannapolis, Burlington and Rocky Mount. “The numbers they approved were slightly below the average (pay) for the cities with 40,000 to 60,000 in population.”Board members Ron Julian and Sarah McAulay voted against the increase. McAulay said during the meeting she believes the time to discuss changes in compensation is during the budget process. After the pay raises were approved, McAulay said she plans to donate the increase she receives to the education programs of local nonprofits.“It should have been done at budget and not mid-year. I think the raises were excessive. If they need to be brought up to that level, they should have been stepped up over a two-year period,” McAulay said, noting the board “never would have made such an increase for (town) employees.”Swain said she’s been an elected official for 14 years and the town’s population has grown from about 5,000 to nearly 50,000.“When you have a population that large, you increase the number of phone calls, requests for meetings, number of potential community organizations you can start and be involved in,” she said, noting officials also have regional obligations such as transportation and economic development collaborations. While it is a personal decision to serve, Swain said, the little things –from vehicle maintenance and gas to parking fees and meeting concerned citizens over coffee – add up.“People who do public service for the right reasons want to give and give and give. We want to encourage that,” Swain said. “The elected officials are working on behalf of the citizens, have been hired by the citizens to do the job. It’s a delicate balance to talk about public service and paying for it,” she said.“The ultimate decision maker is the voter. They have the opportunity to look at the salaries, the job description, the work being done,” she said, noting she believes citizens are getting the value.“The voter has to make the decision, ‘Am I getting value from that person as an elected official?’” Swain said.Board member Danny Phillips voted in favor of the pay increase and said he felt enough time had been spent discussing compensation and action needed to be taken. “It’s not going to be a popular decision with voters,” he said. Many voters don’t know elected officials in Huntersville don’t receive benefits, he said.Many also don’t realize that while the positions are classified as “part-time,” most put in more than 20 hours a week, Phillips said.“You shouldn’t have to lose money to serve,” Phillips said. “If (compensation) went up a little bit, we could encourage more people to come out and run for office.”
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Huntersville board OKs salary increase for members
Salaries Here are some current annual salaries for elected officials. Cornelius (Does not include benefits) Mayor: $12,000. Mayor pro-tem and commissioners: $5,000. Davidson (Does not include benefits) Mayor: $12,019.50. Mayor pro-tem, commissioners: $3,356.79. Mooresville Mayor: $11,854. Mayor pro-tem: $8,551. Commissioners: $7,773.