Charlottesville City Councilors have taken the first step in the process to give themselves a pay raise, and now next steps lie in the hands of state lawmakers.
At council’s meeting on Monday, December 3, councilors voted three to two to request an open-ended charter change from the General Assembly that could lead to a salary bump in the future.
The decision was supported by a number of members of the public who spoke at Monday night’s meeting.
It was ultimately a contentious vote, but the general feeling among the three councilors in favor of the charter change request was that even if the change is granted, council can still decide at a later date to not install raises.
“For me, it's worth the statement that this is important,” Mayor Nikuyah Walker, said.
Walker and Councilor Wes Bellamy claim that in their current roles, they are working more than their part-time salaries indicate.
“I don’t think any of us can say that we only work 20 hours a week,” Bellamy said.
Therefore, they say they'd like to be fairly compensated for the work they are doing as public servants.
“Whether we are working 50 hours or 20 hours right now, we are not being compensated properly,” Walker said.
And some members of the public agree.
“It’s really important y’all’s salaries compensate you for all your hard work,” Marcia Geyer, who lives in Charlottesville, said.
Vice Mayor Heather Hill and Councilor Mike Signer say they would rather ratchet back council's work load than boost salaries.
“There’s just a lot we need to do to make this more manageable, regardless of salaries,” Hill said.
Signer says the role of council needs to be scaled back to the part-time job as it was originally intended.
“In a lot of cities, your City Council meetings move quickly and the city councilors’ roles are not nearly as intensive as they are here because there is a lot more reliance on staff,” Signer said.
Ultimately, Councilor Kathy Galvin, along with Walker and Bellamy, voted in favor of requesting an open-ended charter change from the General Assembly that would allow City Council - if approved at a later date - to push salaries part their current $18,000 limit for councilors and $20,000 for the mayor.
“We’re looking for more autonomy from the General Assembly in setting our own salaries,” Galvin said.
The request is now set to appear before the General Assembly when it convenes in January.
If the charter change is approved, council would then have to vote again to decide if it will actually install those raises and how much they’ll be worth.
The raises would not go into effect until 2020 at the earliest.
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