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Bill Bestpitch and Anita Price, who previously voted for a 28.5 percent pay raise, want more time to consider a lesser pay increase proposal pitched by David Trinkle.
Monday, June 17, 2013
The Roanoke City Council voted Monday to hold off on awarding itself a large pay raise in order to discuss other salary options next month.
Council members voted 5-2 to table the second reading of an ordinance that would have raised council members’ pay by 28.5 percent and the mayor’s pay by 15 percent.
The ordinance establishing the raises had passed by a 4-3 vote June 3, a margin narrow enough to force a second vote.
However, Councilman Bill Bestpitch made a motion that council table the vote until after members could discuss the matter further during an upcoming work session. The next such session is July 1.
The motion to table passed with Vice Mayor Court Rosen and council members Bestpitch, David Trinkle, Ray Ferris and Anita Price voting in favor. Mayor David Bowers and Councilman Sherman Lea voted against the measure. Bestpitch and Price had voted in favor of the pay raises two weeks ago.
Bestpitch made his motion after listening to Trinkle and Ferris, who had voted against the increases during the ordinance’s first reading, make pitches for smaller raises.
Trinkle has proposed a 10 percent raise for council members, which he said would offset city employees’ future increased costs for retirement and pension benefits and provide a 2 percent pay increase.
He said council raises should be made incrementally and “not in one big leap, one big jump all at once to the 28 percent mark.”
Trinkle made a similar proposal when the ordinance was first passed two weeks ago, but his suggestions were met with silence. This time, however, Ferris spoke in support of using a work session to discuss an increase in the range of 8 percent to 10 percent.
“We threw around a lot of numbers today that don’t fit in an eight-second sound bite,” Ferris said. “I will hold out an olive branch … [and] I will consider an 8 [percent] to 10 [percent] range in order to keep even” with rising costs.
Bestpitch earlier spoke in favor of a pay increase. He noted that council members had gone lengthy stretches without any raises during the past 16 years and had even cut their salaries during lean economic times. But then he moved to table the pay increase proposal until further discussions have taken place.
The raises on the table Monday would have increased council members’ pay from $15,560 to $20,000. The mayor’s pay would have risen from $20,000 to $23,000.
Supporters of the 28.5 percent increase said that the raises would have put Roanoke closer to the maximum salaries allowed under state law, but still a few thousand dollars under the cap.
Under state law, Roanoke could pay its mayor $25,000 a year and its council members $23,000 a year.
“That’s a limit, which means we shouldn’t be over that, but not that we should be there,” Trinkle said.
Norfolk, Richmond and Newport News pay their mayors and council members the maximum salaries that Virginia allows. Portsmouth, which is slightly smaller than Roanoke, pays its elected officials more than Roanoke does.
According to the city’s budget office, Roanoke County supervisors are paid more than Roanoke council members. Roanoke’s mayor is paid slightly more than the county board’s chairman.
Three members of the public spoke against the raises Monday before the issue was discussed. Roanoke lawyer Pat Ferrance said that approving the large increase could have ramifications during the next council election in May 2014. He suggested that the council table the raises until next year and make them a campaign issue.
In other council actions:
Solid waste department manager Skip Decker said that even though the fire and police departments receive most of the glory, “you never want to see them come to your house. You want to see us at least once a week.”
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