Reed To Decide On Council Pay Raise

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Atlanta City Council members are waiting for Mayor Kasim Reed to decide on raising their annual salaries from about $39,000 to $60,000. The Council Monday voted 10-4 in favor of the pay raise. Reed spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs says the Mayor can sign or veto the bill. If he does nothing in the eight days after Council passed the bill, it automatically becomes law. However, the raises wouldn’t go into effect until 2014.

Is $60,000 too much?

From Howard Shook’s perspective, being elected to city council is like being hired for a 9 to 5… and then some.

“If you represent a district where you have a lot of constituent situations you’re trying to unsnarl and if you chair a committee, it’s absolutely a full time job,” said Shook, who represents Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.

Shook has tried to recruit people to run for city council. He says his efforts usually hit a wall.

“When I get to the point about the salary and the hours involved, there’s a lot of laughter and the conversation ends,” said Shook.

He says they don’t think $39,000 a year is anywhere near enough. An elected official compensation commission agreed. The commission compared Atlanta’s city council to Boston, D.C., Milwaukee, Portland and Seattle. After doing so, the group recommended bumping each councilor’s salary up to $60,000.

Councilman C.T. Martin was one of the four who voted against the raise.

“It made sense for us to hold it until we see what they employees were going to get,” said Martin.

Martin wanted city councilors and city workers to get raises at the same time.

“Our employees don’t make a lot of money. They’ve gone a long time without compensation.”

Workers have received bonuses and cost of living adjustments. And union heads agree city councilors work hard. But they say so do city employees.

Jim Daws heads Atlanta’s fire fighters union.

“My frustration is the way Atlanta’s firefighters have been allowed for over a decade now to fall further and further behind their market in the Metro Atlanta area,” said Daws.

For example, Daws says, on average, Atlanta firefighters with 10 years of experience make less than their counterparts in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fulton and Cobb Counties.

Two local union heads plan to ask Mayor Kasim Reed to veto the pay raises.

Atlanta police union head Ken Allen questions a pay raise during a recovering economy.

“This is just not the time or the place for a $20,000 pay increase for the council members,” said Allen.

Gina Pagnotta Murphy heads the Atlanta chapter of the Service Employees International Union. She wonders why city council members didn’t simultaneously approve a raise for city employees.

“I just don’t understand why they could not wait until all of us could go across the board and be happy about it and have a raise together and have a political base move and that’s not right,” said Murphy.

If Mayor Reed vetoes the raises, Daws says it won’t matter. Ten city council votes are enough to override a veto.