A Bellevue city councilman is proposing that the council approve a $6,000 pay raise for the council and mayor on Tuesday — without going through the multiweek approval period that accompanies most ordinances.
Councilman Pat Shannon said there isn’t time for the customary delay that allows the public to mull a proposal and weigh in before a final vote. Instead, he has placed the pay raise on Tuesday’s council agenda and asked that a public hearing be held at the same meeting, followed by a vote.
That doesn’t sit well with Doug Kagan, president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.
“That’s wrong,” he said. “The process and the large pay raise.”
Kagan said he wouldn’t begrudge the council a smaller raise and one that follows an orderly process.
“We like step increases — peg it to inflation,” he said.
The council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bellevue City Hall at 1500 Wall St.
Council members are paid $11,000 a year, and the mayor receives $17,000 a year. The pay hike would increase that to $17,000 for council members and $23,000 for the mayor.
By comparison, Omaha City Council members receive $37,378 a year, and the Omaha mayor, who is considered a full-time employee, receives $102,312 per year. Both are in line for previously approved pay raises.
Lincoln City Council members are paid $24,000 a year, and the Lincoln mayor gets $87,129. Grand Island council members receive $7,200 a year, and the mayor gets $16,000.
Sarpy County Board members get $26,095, with the board chairman receiving an additional $1,000.
Shannon said he believes that the increase is needed to entice a greater number of talented people to run for the council.
“I’m hoping it’s enough money that we’ll attract candidates who might not have run if they felt their time was worth more,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get better candidates.”
Shannon said the compressed time frame is necessary for the raise to go into effect at the start of the next council term, which begins Dec. 10. If a raise isn’t in effect by then, the council could still vote on it, but it wouldn’t go into effect for another two years — after another election has taken place and a new council is seated. That’s because state law prohibits a council from giving itself a pay raise.
Typically, an ordinance goes through three council meetings from introduction to final consideration and a vote, which takes about six weeks. For this measure to have followed the normal process, it would have had to have been on the agenda by the Oct. 8 meeting, according to Assistant City Attorney Tim Buckley. That would have placed it on the agenda before the November election, which could have turned it into an election year political fight.
Shannon said the election didn’t drive the timing of the proposal.
“I wasn’t on the ballot this year,” he said. “We didn’t want to wait until after the election. ... The timing just got all jammed up.”
Only two of the six council positions were on the ballot. Incumbent John Hansen was defeated by retired Bellevue Police Officer Bob Stinson. Jim Moudry decided not to seek a second term and was replaced by real estate agent Kathy Welch. In addition to Shannon, the other council members whose seats weren’t on the ballot are Thomas Burns, Paul Cook and Don Preister.
Shannon said it’s been no secret that he would like to see the City Council get a pay raise. He proposed doing so on July 31 during the budgeting process. The idea was shot down by City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli, who said that the proposal was being added too late in the budget process to allow transparency and that the city, which was making cuts elsewhere, couldn’t afford the raise. Mangiamelli couldn’t be reached Monday night.
Shannon doesn’t buy Mangiamelli’s argument that the city can’t afford the pay raise.
The ordinance proposal puts the fiscal impact at $42,000.
“That’s a blip in a $78 million budget,” Shannon said.