OUR VIEW: No great way to approve raises

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, October 16, 2019

This past week, the Valley City Council voted for a substantial raise for the next mayor and city council.

The mayor position currently pays $1,000 a month but that position will pay $1,500 per month after the next election cycle. Positions on the Valley City Council currently pay $800 a month but that will increase to $1,100 a month.

The key word — as was the case when Lanett recently made a similar decision — is that the raises are for the “next” council or mayor. Obviously, that could mean the current mayor and council receive those raises, but the public will have a chance to vote on whether they should get another term or not.

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Obviously, any time a politician votes for a raise that could help themselves down the line, it’s going to draw in eyeballs and ruffle some feathers. It should, since taxpayer money is being spent and the public has little say in the situation.

To be fair, even if it was put up for a vote, it’s fairly unlikely that the general public would regularly vote for a raise for a politician. Fair or not, politicians in general are always among the least trusted professions in America, and they get blamed for a lot of problems, regardless if they have any control over the matter. It just comes with the territory.

However, just like Lanett, the Valley mayor and council just conceivably voted themselves a substantial raise, if they decided to run for re-election and to win. That’s an awkward circumstance, one that rightly raises eyebrows no matter where it happens.

So far, we’ve been told that this was always the plan in Valley. However, unlike its next-door neighbors in Lanett, it had not been a long time since the council and mayor received a raise.

Lanett’s mayor and council hadn’t received a raise since 1988, but the Valley mayor and council received a raise about four years ago. It should be noted that a $300 to $500 raise per month — equal to $3,600 to $6,000 per year — is not just a cost of living increase, as the cost has not increased by that much in only four years. This is a substantial increase, one that would make a big difference in anyone’s life, and we have not received a great reason for it.

Like with the Lanett raises — which were much larger — there’s got to be some kind of middle ground so the raises don’t seem so substantial.

The larger problem, as we see it, is that there isn’t a great way to approve these raises, and that’s true anywhere, not just in Valley or Lanett.

However, the general public should always be involved and in fairness, they had a chance in this case. No one chose to speak for or against the raises at council meetings, even though a pending vote for raises was reported quickly by this newspaper and other sources for local information.

Any time this kind of vote takes place the general public should be involved, but both sides — the council and citizens — have to actually make sure they do their part.

Posting on social media for or against after the fact doesn’t do any good.