Councilman proposes city council pay cut

Change would reduce salaries by 20 percent
May. 16, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Councilman Charles Taylor has proposed easing taxpayers' burden by cutting council salaries.

Taylor recommended reducing council members' pay by 20 percent and adjusting their travel per-diem stipend during the council's Law and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday. He asked for the item be placed on the upcoming agenda for the 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the Sanford Municipal Center, located at 224 E. Weatherspoon St., for a vote. 

Council members make $10,760.16 per year, the mayor pro tem makes $11,474.52 and the mayor makes $15,091.68 per year, according to Human Resources Director Christy Pickens.

Council members should be feeling the same pinch as other city employees, who are saddled with health insurance increases each year, Taylor said.

"It starts with us," he said. "Our employees look to us for leadership."

When a council member travels to a national meeting, they receive $150 per day that covers all of their expenses except for lodging and transportation, according to Sanford Finance Director Melissa Cardinali. They are not required to return the unused money or keep the receipts from the trip, said City Manager Hal Hegwer.

A portion of the per diem is taxed based on a cost-of-living recommendation from the Internal Revenue Service, Cardinali said. For example, if a council member spent one night in Boston and the IRS recommendation is $20, the council member would be taxed on the remaining $130, Cardinali said. The per diem only applies to overnight trips, she said.

The council's per-diem amount should be more in line with the policy for city employees, Taylor said.

Council members shouldn't jump to raise property taxes without first looking from within to cut, he said. Taylor said he wanted the suggested cut to be higher, but settled on the 20 percent as a "happy medium."

Council took no action on the proposal, and there was no further discussion.

In other matters, Council considered:

* Temporarily closure of Chatham Street for the San-Lee Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America's Antique Car Show scheduled for June 1.

* A memorandum of understanding (MOU) to organize and plan an all-inclusive organization charged with economic development. The committee tasked with creating the new organization is seeking a supermajority vote of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, Sanford City Council, Broadway Board of Commissioners, the Lee County Economic Development Corporation and the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. Council is set to vote on the MOU during Tuesday's meeting. 

* Renewing the inmate labor contract with the N.C. Department of Corrections for $2,080.

* An update on the city's solid waste services. Waste Industries is set to begin trash pickup in June, and residents will be notified of any changes to their routes.