City Council discusses salary decreases for elected officials

City+Council+Aldermen+Carolyn+Morris+reads+a+letter+out+loud+during+DeKalb%27s+City+Council+meeting+on+Monday%2C+July+13th.%0A

Patrick Murphy

City Council Aldermen Carolyn Morris reads a letter out loud during DeKalb’s City Council meeting on Monday, July 13th.

Kierra Frazier, News Editor

DeKALB — The DeKalb City Council approved an ordinance on first reading for a potential 10% reduction in the annual compensation of DeKalb’s elected officials after the April 2021 election at Monday’s meeting. 

The ordinance was originally written for a 5% reduction until an amendment was made by Second Ward Alderperson Bill Finucane. Finucane said the city is under very hard financial straits with COVID-19 and the loss of revenue. 

“We’re asking other departments to pull the line to try and reduce expenditures,” Finucane said. “Overall, this would amount to a 7.1% reduction in elected official salaries for the coming year.”

A 10% reduction in annual salaries would mean the Mayor would be paid $19,800 a year, Alderpeople would be paid $4,860 a year and the City Clerk would be paid $7,200, Finucane said. 

If the ordinance is passed on second reading at the next city council meeting, the reductions would only apply to open seats including the Mayor, Alderpersons two, four and six and the City Clerk after the April 2021 election. 

The ordinance passed on first reading 4-2 with First Ward Alderperson Carolyn Morris and Mayor Jerry Smith voting against the measure. 

Morris said the ordinance results in an inequality of opportunity for diverse council members to become elected due to an even lower annual salary and huge time commitment it requires. She said the decision for the salary cut is a decision against equal representation. 

“We have an all-white male council with one female, who’s white, and we have a precedent of having reduced the salaries in the past and here’s the result,” Morris said. “We are watching the evidence of the result today. I’m just disgusted if this goes forward, I’m absolutely disgusted.” 

In 2008, council members took a reduction in their salaries as well due to the recession, Finucane and Smith said. 

Smith said he understands the fiscal point of view of passing the ordinance but believes it’ll send the wrong message for potential alderpeople in the future. 

“On top of the 10% decrease that was given to by a past city council to those salaries lends further credence to my argument that by continually chopping into something where people really have to look at that,” Smith said. “I don’t think anybody gets into this business for the money.” 

In July, a consideration of the bi-annual review of compensation of elected officials passed at a council meeting. It introduced the 180-day window before spring elections to consider salary changes for elected officials. An ordinance needed to be presented before the 180-day window, which began on Oct. 8, to establish future compensations.

Finucane and Third Ward Alderperson Tracy Smith suggested the council consider a compensation decrease for the mayor, council members and city clerk, according to the Oct. 12 City Council agenda

Fifth Ward Alderperson Scott McAdams said the current economic crisis comes with “shared sacrifices” and “doing the right thing for the taxpayers.” 

“We didn’t get into this for the money, we didn’t, we do it because we love the City of DeKalb,” McAdams said. “People will serve even if there wasn’t a salary. I think it’s very important that we look at the big picture, which is that we are in the middle of an economic crisis in this country.”