The Alexandria City Council took one step closer to increasing the salaries of the next mayor and Council.
In a 6-0-1 vote, Council asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will increase the next elected body’s salaries from $20,000 per year to $27,500 and the mayor’s salary from $22,500 to $30,000. Councilman David Speck abstained. The salary increases will bring Alexandria officials in line with the salaries of their counterparts in Arlington.
A committee of former Council members, which was appointed by Council, had recommended only a 10-percent increase in salary that would have raised Council salaries from $20,000 to $22,500 and the mayor’s salary from $22,500 to $25,000.
“I think their recommendation was outrageous and insulting,” said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson at the Oct. 19 public hearing. “I wonder why they even bothered to recommend a $2,000 increase.”
Council also discussed increasing expense allowances. “I should point out that we are almost always under budget in this area,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley.
Councilwoman Claire Eberwein expressed concern about determining what was an allowable expense. “First of all, since we aren’t using our budget now, is it really usable if we increase the amount? Also, without better guidelines, I’m not sure that I want to make staff responsible for determining what is an allowable expense and what is political. I really think we should leave the expenses as they are,” she said.
VICE MAYOR Bill Cleveland supported the increase but said it was not the money that made most people run for office. “I would have run for City Council if the salary was $20,000 or $5 or nothing,” he said. “I want to serve the people of Alexandria regardless of the salary.”
Speck explained why he was abstaining. “This is not a job and this is not our salary,” he said. “This is not something that we are required to do, and hopefully we don’t see this as our profession. When compensation is perceived more like a salary, the perception could be that we need to be spending more time on what goes on in the city. I want to make certain that, in increasing salaries, we are not beginning to make another decision about our form of government.”
IN THE END, Council voted to model the compensation package after Arlington’s. In addition to the salary increase, Council will be eligible to participate in the city’s benefit plan, and annual cost-of-living increases will be built in. The draft ordinance will be presented to Council in November for passage in December so that it can take effect with the swearing in of the next City Council in July 2003.