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A majority of the Roanoke City Council has authorized the city attorney to draft an ordinance with double-digit pay raises for council members and the mayor.
The Roanoke Times | File 2009
Mayor David Bowers, who was one of the four council members voting for the proposal, had floated the idea of both a pay increase and tax increase in April, but council members rebuffed that idea.
Monday, May 6, 2013
A sharply divided Roanoke City Council took a first step toward giving itself a hefty pay increase Monday.
The council voted 4-3 to ask the city attorney to draft a proposal to boost council members’ pay by 28.5 percent, to $20,000, and to increase the mayor’s salary by 15 percent, to $23,000.
The increased pay, if approved, would still be below the maximum sums the state legislature has authorized, said Councilman Bill Bestpitch, who sponsored the proposal.
The council is set to formally consider the idea at its May 13 meeting, when it will vote on a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. State law says the earliest any increase could take effect, however, would be July 2014, after the next city election.
“I think if you ask any human resources professional about pay for people with the responsibility, the authority, and time commitment of council, they’d say even the amount the state sets is too low,” Bestpitch said.
Bestpitch estimates he spends about 20 hours a week on council business.
Mayor David Bowers, who was one of the four council members voting for the proposal, had floated the idea of both a pay increase and tax increase in April, but council members rebuffed that idea. Councilman Sherman Lea and Councilwoman Anita Price also supported the proposal.
“Now is not the time to talk about raising our salaries when we’ve got everyone else on a diet,” said Councilman Ray Ferris, who opposed the proposal.
He said he was disturbed that the council would consider such large increases when city employees were set to get a 2 percent increase.
“You lead by example,” said Vice Mayor Court Rosen, who also opposed the measure. “I don’t think this is leading by example.”
Roanoke’s mayor currently is paid $20,000 a year, while the vice mayor earns $16,560 and council members $15,560. They took a 5 percent cut in pay on July 1, 2009, but restored pay to the old level as of July 1, 2012.
The city’s elected officials are paid less than those in Portsmouth, which is slightly smaller than Roanoke.
Roanoke County pays its supervisors more, while the board chairman is paid slightly less than the city’s mayor, according to a survey conducted by the city’s budget office.
Unlike several Virginia cities, including Norfolk, Richmond and Newport News, Roanoke’s elected officials are paid less than the maximums set by state law. For Roanoke, those maximums are $25,000 a year for the mayor and $23,000 for the council members, including the vice mayor.
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