The 52 percent pay raise that the Atlanta City Council voted to give itself last week became law on Wednesday despite Mayor Kasim Reed not signing off on it.
On Dec. 3, council members voted 10-4 to reward itself a pay increase from $39,473 a year to $60,300 that will now take effect in January 2014. When the council approved the ordinance, Reed said through a spokesperson that he believed many members of council deserved a raise, but was concerned about the timing.
While the council has not received a pay increase since 2005, with the pay hike, the council’s annual salary has now 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.
Fulton County tax collection figures are expected next month.
Kelly Uhlis, the wife of 12-year APD veteran, Sgt. Tommy Uhlis, started the change.org petition saying she was angered that council members voted to give themselves a $20,000 pay increase. Uhlis told Fox 5 her husband’s pay was frozen by the same council that approved itself such a sizeable pay increase. When the officers did receive an increase for cost of living expenses, Uhlis said escalating health costs negated the bump in salary.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported Thursday that Reed has promised to meet with city employees in January with the intent to reach an agreement that would result in a boost in pay for more than 7,500 city workers. It is unknown how small or large an employee pay increase could be.
The mayor has promised to decline his 25 percent raise, or $37,000 pay increase, in the new law.
When the ordinance was approved, 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 said through a news release that have either reduced outside employment status to part time or have relinquished outside employment entirely to better serve their constituencies.
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.