The Raleigh city manager is proposing a 73 percent increase to council’s salary and benefit package, which seems large given the nominal raise and small cuts other city employees are experiencing. But, the council hasn’t had a raise in more than 20 years and their full salary will still be less than the average of comparable cities in North Carolina.
This year’s proposed budget gives each member of the council a $5,000 raise and entitles them to city health benefits. That raises the full amount the city spends on the council’s salary from around $110,000 to $190,000.
City Manager Russell Allen said the increase needs to happen to get the council’s salary in line with other major municipalities.
In a literal comparison to other city employees, the council might seem most like part-time employees. Other part-time employees for the city like park workers or greenway keepers are paid hourly and don’t receive benefits. They also aren’t getting a raise this year.
But Louis Buonpane, with the city manager’s office, said it’s more accurate to look at the council like the board of director’s for a large company. They get a small stipend for their efforts directing the city.
Nonetheless, the president of the city worker’s union, Jerry Ledbetter, said city workers are dissatisfied with the large raise.
“I have worked with them and respect the city manager and the city council,” said Ledbettter, who is a sanitation worker. “What they fail to realize is that they are not respecting the working people.”
“I would hope the city workers would not be alarmed,” said Allen. “I would think they would look at it [the council’s salary] and realize it needs to change.”
“I felt like since ours hadn’t changed in at least 20 years, we needed a change,” he continued. “It’s a rather small amount.”
Indeed, $80,000 represents around one-one hundredth of a percent of the city’s $678.9 million budget.
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin said the decision to consider a raise for the council in this year’s budget was not brought up by the council, but by Will Allen, a private citizen who serves on the council-appointed Passenger Rail Task Force.
“Raleigh has tended to be fairly conservative and the people who have served on the city council do it not because of the money, but because of the public service,” said Baldwin. “In difficult economic times you would want to make sure the council is more fairly compensated.”
“If you do this right you are putting in at least 30 hours a week,” she continued. “I also run my own business, which basically means you are taking away from your earning capacity.”
City staff compared Raleigh to Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem in deciding whether to recommend the raise.
Even after adding $5,000 to the councilors’ $10,000 salary, the city still comes up behind all other major municipalities except Winston-Salem.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Mayor Pro Tem Russ Stephenson would receive the $5,000 raise on top of their respective $15,000 and $12,000 salaries.
All councilors will now be eligible for city health benefits, which is true for at least three of the four major municipalities that city staff compared to Raleigh.
The city will hold a public hearing on June 5 at City Hall and must adopt its budget by July 1.