One Bellevue City Council member has voiced opposition to giving future council members a raise — though he does believe the mayor is overdue for a pay bump.
Other than council member Paul Cook’s dissent, a Tuesday public hearing on $6,000 pay raises for the council and mayor was a quiet affair, even after social media was abuzz in recent weeks about the proposal.
If the council approves the raises at its Aug. 6 meeting, the mayor’s salary will jump to $21,000 from $15,000; council members’ pay will rise to $17,000 from $11,000.
The raises would take effect in December 2020, by which time much of the council could feature new faces.
Cook said he asked the city’s human resources department to compare the pay of Bellevue’s council members and mayor to eight comparable cities that Bellevue uses to determine the pay of its 250-some rank-and-file employees.
That analysis, Cook said, showed that raises aren’t warranted.
“I’d argue (council members have) been getting paid too high the last 10 years,” Cook said, noting that comparisons to Omaha, Lincoln or other Sarpy County cities may not be fair.
Two council members who expressed support of the raise — Pat Shannon and Don Preister — pointed to the workload and hours the council puts in behind the scenes as reasons for the pay increase.
Council members are tasked with helping craft the city’s budget and guiding the formation of ordinances that govern much of their constituents’ lives. They read stacks of background documents to prepare for meetings, field phone calls from citizens and spend time in the community to see firsthand the sites affected by their votes.
Shannon estimated that council members often devote 20 hours each week to the job.
Preister said the mayor last received a raise in 1998.
“This is beginning to address that issue,” Preister said.
The other council members did not speak on the topic.
Michael Wills, a Bellevue resident who often speaks at Bellevue City Council meetings, spoke in support of the pay raises. He said Bellevue’s elected officials manage millions of dollars of taxpayer money each year and should be compensated accordingly.
“If you want good people on the City Council, you pay for it,” Wills said.
The only other resident to speak, Joe Kidder, said the money that would be used for raises should go to police officers, firefighters and public works employees.
“I understand the work you put in, but you still shouldn’t put yourselves above the people who make the city work on a daily basis,” Kidder said.