Second Time Around, Same Outcome, Mayor and City Council Salaries Stay The Same
For the second time this week the Morgantown City Council met in special session on Thursday evening to discuss the salaries of the mayor and council. The council deadlocked 3-3 on Tuesday on whether to keep salaries at their current levels. Mayor Linda Keown broke the tie by casting a vote in favor of the current salaries.
However a procedural error meant that the public and media were not given 24 hours notice of the Tuesday night meeting, making the actions taken null and void. This prompted the Thursday evening session, where once again the only agenda item was the salary issue.
Councilperson Dionne Cannon-Merritt opened the discussion by thanking fellow councilman Allen Meredith for his research on local mayor and council salaries, and politely disagreed with his proposal to reduce all salaries by one third. Cannon-Merritt stated that she thought a reduction of the Mayor's salary to $36,000 per year was sufficient. Meredith had proposed a cut that would have made the mayoral salary $26,000 per year. The Mayor's salary is currently $41,813 per year.
Councilman Allen Meredith then moved to make the mayoral salary $36,000 per year, with Councilman Terrell House seconding. Discussion was then opened with Meredith reiterating that salaries for the mayor and council in Morgantown are out if line with other cities of comparable size.
Meredith cited a recent Beechtreenews.com poll which showed 76% of respondents in favor of reducing the salaries by one-third. According to Meredith he feels it is his job to represent citizens, and he said the poll showed the reduction is what people want. He further pointed out that the median income in Morgantown is $22,000 per year, and that the per capita income in Morgantown is 36% lower than the rest of the state.
Terrell House joined the discussion saying, "it's the opportune time to do something like this." He also said that the council has the responsibility to be good stewards of tax dollars.
Councilman Gary Southerland said that he thinks salaries aren't an issue among voters and tax-payers. Southerland said that salary levels are never mentioned to him by his constituents, a sentiment echoed by Councilperson Sharon Johnson.
House countered that by stating, "the mindset of people has changed."
Mayor Keown repeated some of her justifications for keeping the current salaries that she originally stated on Tuesday night. She told the council that the mayor's job is time consuming, and demanding. She further stated on Thursday that as a principal in the Butler County School System that she made approximately $55,000 per year, and that the mayor's job was as hard or harder than being a school principal. She also stated that this is her last year as Mayor, and that this salary will affect the next person in office. As on Tuesday she said she believes the salary needs to be high enough to support a younger person while in office.
Gary Southerland ended the discussion of the matter by pointing out that the salaries have been unchanged since 2001.
A roll-call vote was then taken. Dionne Cannon-Merritt, Allen Meredith and Terrell House voted in favor of reducing the mayor's salary, with Sharon Johnson, Russell Givens, and Gary Southerland voting against the pay cut. As on Tuesday Mayor Keown broke the tie by casting a vote against reducing mayoral pay, and the motion failed.
Councilman Rusell Givens then moved to keep all mayoral and council salaries the same for the term beginning in 2015. City Council members currently make $6,579.84 per year for a combined total of $39,479.04.
Dionne Cannon-Merritt, Allen Meredith and Terrell House voted against keeping the current pay rates, with Sharon Johnson, Russell Givens, and Gary Southerland voting for the current salaries. Mayor Keown broke the tie by casting her vote in favor of keeping the current salaries and the motion passed.
The meeting was then adjourned.
Story by Joe Morris, Beech Tree News
Video by Jeremy Hack, Beech Tree News