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Mayoral pay likely to increase
June 28, 2013 · Jennifer Pandich

The city council took the first step last week to increase mayoral pay in Mount Vernon, but had a tie vote in bumping pay for council members.

Council members approved the first reading of an ordinance change to raise the mayor's pay to $6,000 a year, from the current $2,400, as of Jan. 1, 2016. The change requires two more readings and publication in the newspaper to go into effect.

There was a tie vote to raise council pay from the current $15 per meeting ($45 per month with the current meeting schedule) to $1,000 a year.

There will be two elections that take place before the change is made; no one serving currently will be affected by the change unless reelected.

Resident Francesca Thompson, now a candidate for city council, spoke out against raising the pay, saying the city has a number of expensive projects in the works with the roundabouts project and the possible community center.

"A lot of what the mayor does is during the business day," said council member Slaton Anthony.

Agreeing with Anthony was council member Marty Christensen, who said, "We want to continue to have a mayor who works really hard for us."

Mayor Scott Petersen thought the mayoral pay change was too high. He suggested $3,600 or $4,000 for the mayor with council pay rising from $15 per meeting to $1,200 per year.

The vote to raise council pay was split 2-2, with Anthony, who made the motion, and Hampton, who seconded the motion, voting to increase the salary for council members and council member Marianne Taylor and Christensen voting against the measure. Because there is an empty council seat, the one recently vacated by Steve Maurice who resigned, the tie was possible.

One issue in the debate was compensation for lost of income that might be incurred.

"We sometimes ask people to go to conferences or meetings during the day," said Petersen.

Another was the pay in surrounding communities. According to Christensen, Mount Vernon has the lowest in the area, with council members in Lisbon being paid more. Christensen added that he would feel much better about a pay raise if the pay could be put into a fund to help people in the city who are unable to pay water bills or replace sidewalks. Petersen replied by saying that anyone can do that now.

Taylor spoke of the work as being essentially done on a volunteer basis.

"I've been on other boards and we never got paid," she said. When she voted against the measure, she said she was not against the idea but the rate.

"These changes would work out to $12,000. Is having a representative democracy worth $12,000?" said Anthony, who has previously said he will not be running for reelection.

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