No raises for mayor, council

COVINGTON - The mayor and City Council will not get a pay raise this year.

The majority of the Covington City Council agreed they do not want to include a proposed salary increase on their agenda.

Mayor Kim Carter had asked the council to notify her via e-mail of where they stood on the issue.

"Most people felt that now was not the best time to put it on the agenda. I think we all agree it needed to be addressed per (Human Resources Director Ronnie) Cowan's investigation and recommendation earlier in the year. Our compensation hasn't been adjusted in 32 years," Carter said.

Councilmembers Keith Dalton, John Howard, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams were opposed to placing the raises on the agenda, while council members Mike Whatley and Janet Goodman were in favor.

"I did not want it on the agenda because I don't feel the time is right," Franklin said. "That was my reason. We can wait until the economy kind of picks up a little bit."

Howard agreed.

"I am one of the no's. Always have been. And if I was going to be on the council next year, I would still say no," said Howard, who is not running for re-election. "It's the wrong time with the economic conditions."

As proposed, the mayor's salary would have increased from $12,000 to $18,000 per year and the yearly salary for council members would have increased from $6,000 to $9,000 per year.

The increases amounted to $24,000, bringing the total salaries for the council and mayor from $48,000 to $72,000 per year.

The current salaries have been in place since 1977, and since that time, the city budget has gone from about $7 million to $120 million, Carter said.

Cowan stated at a work session in February that the council's workload has also increased since that time, and so have utility services, which now stretch outside city limits.

Carter said the city is in good financial shape, with more than $22 million in reserves and a surplus projected for this year's budget. She added that the pay raises will likely be revisited later.

"We feel pretty confident we're going to weather the economic storm. It will be revisited and it needs to be revisited," she said. "It's always unpopular to vote yourself a raise, but we're relying on the advice of our human resources director and city manager ... I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth, but I think the majority of the council will eventually vote for that."

The raises were initially proposed in February but were taken off the table shortly thereafter due to concerns about the economic climate, City Manager Steve Horton said.

The raises were included in this year's budget, with the stipulation that the council must approve it as a separate item later.

A city ordinance requires any pay raise for elected officials to be approved before qualifying for the next election. Qualifying for the 2009 municipal election takes place Aug. 31 through Sept. 4. If approved, the raises would have taken effect Jan. 1.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.