The Homer City Council is on the verge of giving itself a pay raise. At their meeting last week, council members debated the merits of paying themselves more when the city budget is still relatively tight.
The proposal comes from council members David Lewis, Francie Roberts and Beau Burgess. At Monday’s council meeting, Burgess was its most vocal defender, saying the idea of a pay raise wasn’t necessarily about him or any other sitting member of the city council.
Burgess said that he has heard from many people who would otherwise be interested in running for a seat on the council that the reason they choose not to is because they "cannot afford to contribute to a community service activity that ... takes 25 to 40 hours of your time a month to do well."
Burgess says the measure would increase council pay from about $50 a month total to $150.
The ordinance notes that the council voluntarily lowered its own pay a few years ago when the city budget was especially tight and has not given itself a raise since. It calls for a total of just under $9,000 to be appropriated from the general fund to increase council pay. That money would increase council pay to $75 per council meeting day, if the council member appears at the meeting in person.
The ordinance also would allow the mayor or a council member to defer their salary back to the city or to the Homer Foundation, if they so choose.
Burgess received support for his proposal from an unlikely source. Homer businessman Kevin Hogan is a former council member and a frequent council critic. But Monday night, he said he thinks council members should be compensated more fairly for the work they do.
"There is a lot of waste in the city (but) you guys are not one of them," said Hogan.
Mayor Beth Wythe said she is “adamantly” opposed to the pay raise.
"I see it as a privilege and an honor," said Wythe. "I don't understand how council compensation makes a seat more or less attainable."
The council voted 4 to 2 to introduce the ordinance Monday, with council members Gus Van Dyke and Bryan Zak voting “no.” Members of the public will have an opportunity to chime in on the subject, at the council’s next meeting, scheduled for May 12th.