OUR VIEW: Raises needed in Lanett, but realistic ones

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Last week, the Lanett City Council and Mayor Kyle McCoy discussed raises for both the mayor and council positions. If approved, the mayor’s salary will jump from $350 per month to $1,500 per month, while the council’s pay will move from $200 to $700 per month.

If approved, the raises will not take effect until October 2020, meaning voters will go the polls to elect a new council and mayor before anyone gets a pay bump. It is, however, possible that several positions on the council along with the mayor position will remain the same after the next election.

This entire discussion can get awkward, just as it’s awkward in any city in the United States when a council and mayor determine whether or not to vote for raises.

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McCoy said the mayor and city council of Lanett haven’t had a raise in 31 years, so it’s clear the positions are due for a pay increase.  If you calculate inflation, the mayor’s salary of $350 in 1988 would be worth about $750 in 2019, give or take a few dollars. That number might’ve made sense three decades ago, but in 2019 it can easily be considered underpaid. The same goes for the council.

It’s also worth noting that no mayor or council in Chambers County makes less than the Lanett mayor and council. It’s time for a raise. It’s likely been due for a long time, and it needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later.

However, the comparative amount of the increases being proposed does raise justifiable eyebrows. Imagine walking into your place of work and being able to vote to potentially give yourself — or your successor — a 250 percent raise or more. That’s what McCoy and the council are doing. The council positions in Lanett would be receiving a 250 percent raise, while McCoy would receive a 328 percent raise.

McCoy’s argument is a sound one. The city of Lanett doesn’t have a city manager, and he’s required to spend a lot of time in the office to keep up with the day-to-day operations as mayor. A city manager would cost the city a lot of money — possibly more than $100,000 per year — and McCoy is taking on the lion’s share of that role. Fair enough.

However, a pay raise equivalent to nearly four times the original salary seems drastic for anyone at any level. McCoy knew what the salary of the mayor position was when he accepted it in 2015, as did the council. Neither should be blindsided by the pay.

If this raise passes, Lanett would go from having the lowest paid mayor and council in Chambers County to the highest. We’re not sure that’s best, nor is it going to sit well with many taxpayers.

The mayor and council deserve a raise — arguably a significant one — but does the mayor really require a 328 percent raise? Does the council really need a 250 percent raise?

More than likely, there’s some middle ground and a figure taxpayers could more easily swallow, while also giving city leaders a well-earned pay increase.