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City Council votes to give itself a 52 percent raise

Mayor Kasim Reed insists he will not accept a raise, even if he is re-elected in 2013.

The Atlanta City Council voted to give itself a pay raise of more than 50 percent on Monday by a 10-4 vote.

The pay increase will take effect in January 2014 and up councilmember’s salary from $39,473 a year to $60,300. The increase in compensation will have no current budgetary impact.

A final decision over the legislation now goes to Mayor Kasim Reed, who through a spokesperson Monday promised to decline his 25 percent raise or $37,000 pay increase in the ordinance. The mayor wants to review the ordinance before deciding whether to sign it, veto it or let it slide into law without his signature.

Reed is in line for a raise from $147,500 to $184,300. Reed said he is reserving judgment until he has time to carefully read the legislation as passed by council.

While the mayor has communicated that he believes many member of council deserve a raise, he is concerned about the timing. As such, he has not made a decision on the council raises. However, he again communicated Monday that he will not accept a raise for himself, including if he is re-elected to a second term in 2013.

While the council has not received a pay increase since 2005, with the pay hike, the council’s annual salary will have almost tripled in the last dozen years. Currently, a promised pay increase across-the-board for city employees is being held up in committee pending more data concerning the city’s property tax collections.

District 6 Councilman Alex Wan was among the 10 who voted for the raise. Others who voted favorably included Cleta Winslow, Howard Shook, Felicia Moore, Yolanda Adrean, Joyce Sheperd, Michael Julian Bond, Aaron Watson, and H. Lamar Willis.

District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall was among the quartet who voted against it. Also voting nay were Natalyn Archibong, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and C.T. Martin. Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. was not present.

In a news release, councilmembers expressed the fact that they routinely work upwards of 60 hours per week on matters ranging from committee and neighborhood meetings, various taskforce and commission obligations, to community emergencies and other constituent needs. Due to the responsibilities of the job, many councilmembers have either reduced outside employment status to part time or have relinquished outside employment entirely to better serve their constituencies.

“The EOCC worked tirelessly for almost eight months in an effort to determine comparable salaries for elected officials,” said Wendy Green, Chair of the seven-member Elected Officials Compensation Committee, an independent body of Atlanta citizens who are charged by the City Charter to review the compensation of elected officials every four years.

“The commission did not consider politics or past employee compensation adjustments in making our recommendation. We specifically relied on the empirical data provided by our consultant, The Shapiro Group, and one-on-one interviews with officials being impacted by our recommendations. While sensitive to the sentiments of constituents, our recommendation was based solely on our analysis of data from comparable cities and their elected officials,” concluded Green in the news release.

Discussing the compensation review process, Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, “While I support the EOCC’s recommendations, the council did not request that the commission explore pay increases. It is a process that is mandated by the city’s charter. Moreover, it is worth noting that the council rejected the previous commission’s recommended increase in 2008, resulting in what will effectively be an eight-year salary freeze on council compensation.

“I support the council’s decision to increase salaries for the next sitting council,” said Mitchell. “The current council is fully aware of the time commitment required to be effective in the role and wish to have that commitment reflected in the next council’s compensation.”

According to the news release, the compensation ($60,300 for councilmembers; $62,000 for the president) is still substantially lower than that of their counterparts in cities such as Boston, Milwaukee, Denver, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. While these cities are similar in population and budget, Atlanta elected leaders communicated through the news release that they have a more expansive oversight responsibility, including that of managing the world’s busiest airport as well as the city’s massive sewer and water operations.

The last recommendation for a salary increase came in 2008 but was rejected by council. At that time councilmembers expressed concern for declining revenues, anxiety over the city’s ability to fund basic municipal services, and a need to ensure good stewardship to all taxpayers, constituents, and city employees.

With the city forced to lay off and furlough employees, close City Hall on Fridays, and brownout certain Atlanta Fire Rescue Department ladder trucks, elected officials were intently focused on restoring fiscal health to the city. As a result, the council rejected the EOCC proposal.

The news release continued that while there is never a good time politically to raise the compensation of elected officials, members of the current council believe the City of Atlanta has done a good job in a tough economy of overseeing the current budget, boosting the city’s reserves from a low of $7.4 million in 2010 to currently more than $110 million, and working with the administration to achieve comprehensive pension reform, which is projected to save taxpayers up to $200 million over a 10-year period.

As a result of this fiscal stewardship over the past several years, the council and mayor recognize that the city is in a much better position to consider comprehensive raises for city employees according to the press statement. In keeping with the council’s commitment to the men and women who make Atlanta run every day, councilmembers have introduced legislation calling for a comprehensive pay increase.

This legislation is one in a sustained series of ongoing targeted efforts by city leadership to make city workforce pay competitive with the market for comparable jobs. While initial funds for employee salary adjustments have been set aside in the two previous fiscal year budgets, the council is still working with the administration to address the specifics of this measure. Since the mayor’s office has requested time to work out specific figures, council has deferred in order to grant the administration time to do so.

According to the release, over the past several years, the council has reaffirmed its commitment to city employees by increasing compensation whenever possible. The council worked with the mayor to increase pay for police and firefighters to bring their salaries to at least 80 percent of market rate.  Additionally, the council has codified a living wage for all employees to ensure that no full-time city employee is eligible for public assistance as a result of receiving pay below the poverty income threshold.

But wait, December 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM
this will easily be the most commented patch story in history. my thoughts.... first off, where did the 52% come from? that is MASSIVE. i could understand it if it was a gradual increase to that number but all at once? it's like they decided to make up for the last 8 years of pay freeze all at once. hm.... second, i have no problem with their compensation being what the new numbers are IF they are really "routinely working 60 hours a week". problem is, i don't believe that for a minute. so, i say PROVE IT, then you can get paid. finally, i laughed out loud at the managing the worlds busiest airport comment. come on... who believes the b.s. coming out of these peoples mouths?
Urbanist December 04, 2012 at 03:23 PM
First, let's understand some basic math - a $1 increase over a base of $1 is 100%, yet not "massive" at all. Second, if Kasim Reed takes a $184,000 salary that will put him awful close to the gem of Newark - Sharp Jones. Hopefully behavior won't follow suit. Third, I'm a big believer that you have to pay for good talent. Which is why these increases should be approved, and then our council members should be replaced (when they can) with people who deserve the cash. This city is a disaster - huge sums of money going to an unnecessary football stadium, when the transportation component of this city is in total chaos. Earmarks for funding large scale developments that have a proven track record of failure in the city, but nothing more to provide incentives to businesses to get them to locate in the city, or for developers to create in-town housing. The list goes on...
Clicker December 04, 2012 at 06:21 PM
What does Reed have to take his time to carefully consider? It's a 52% pay raise - what else is there to understand. These people knew what the pay was and what the workload would be when they ran for office. Shame on them for showing their greed so unabashedly. A 52% pay raise and the justifications they give are "we are sort of competent" and "look at what they make over there."
barrett dungy December 05, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Ok who can live off that small salary . Its time they at least deserve to earn a decent living .If we want the best and the brightest we need to show them that we apreciate them by paying them at least close to what the deserve. Rather leave them open to couruption becasue there broke
Alice Pickett December 05, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Most of the problems that the City Council addresses would not occur if our city government were efficient. Why should they have intervene in so many situations? Let each department be run in a manner that private enterprise is run and the work of the Council would be truly part-time. Maybe they do need a small raise, but $20,000? Just boom. Absolutely not.
Tank December 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Voting yourself a pay raise during a period of time when the majority of american salaries are stagnant is irresponsible and reckless. The stipend given to the council is just that....a stipend, not a salary. All of the council members knew that this was not a "full time job", so that argument is irrelevant. I was pleased to see my council rep as one of the few that voted against this, but am very concerned that our "leaders" continue to show such bad judgement.
Van Gogh December 05, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Breaking news!!! A salary increase from $39,473 to $69,300 is an increase of 75%, Hunt, please clear this up.
Andrew December 05, 2012 at 04:38 PM
This is absurd. What sort of pension plan do these folks have? Who, in a non-government job, even gets a pension plan??
Tank December 05, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Math FTW!
Clicker December 05, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Good catch VG! 75.6% to be exact...crooks. Just who sits on the Elected Officials Compensation Committee anyhow? I've spent the past 15 minutes trying to find out and haven't yet - anyone else know?
Hunt Archbold (Editor) December 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Yes, the figure in the second paragraph should be $60,300, and not $69,300. We regret the typo error and it has been corrected.

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