For the second time this year, the city council decided not to raise their positions salaries for 2010. In an unofficial vote done by e-mail, Mayor Kim Carter said the council’s consensus, by 4 to 2, was to not put the item on the council’s agenda anytime soon — essentially to not vote for raises for next year.
The raises were initially proposed in February by Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan, because he said the mayor and council were doing double the amount of work they had been doing just a few years ago, and they hadn’t received a pay increase since 1977.
The mayor currently makes $12,000 and the council members $6,000; Cowan suggested increasing the mayor’s salary to $18,000 and council member’s salaries to $9,000. The pay raises would have added $24,000 to the budget.
Councilmen Keith Dalton and John Howard were strongly opposed to the raises.
"The only way this would be a worse time to give a pay raise, is if this was the Great Depression," Dalton said previously. "People are hurting and losing their jobs; the school system is hurting. It’s akin to me eating a steak every day and my son eating a hog dog everyday."
Howard said the time wasn’t right because the city was cutting the amount of pay increases for employees. Howard said that the raises won’t affect him either way because he is retiring, but even if he was going to be in office next year, he still wouldn’t vote for a raise.
Council members Mike Whatley and Janet Goodman supported the raises even though they realized the raises would never be popular with the public."I think the council should approve a raise, because they deserve it," Goodman said. "It’s been a long-time coming, and the raises aren’t a lot of money. There’s never going to be a time when it’s acceptable, but somebody has to bite the bullet."
Whatley, who voted against a raise earlier this year, said it was a tough decision, but the council barely makes any money now, and he said they are probably doing quadruple the work they were doing back in 1977.
"It’s a tough time to make those decisions with everything going on around you, but you look at the city and we’re in good shape. The city is in good shape because the mayor, council, city manager and department heads made good decisions."
Whatley said that the majority of his constituents were OK with the raises, and he said if the economy continues to turn around next year will be better time to bring up a vote.
Councilwoman Ocie Franklin said she was torn on the issue but declined to say where she stood on the matter. Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said she wanted more time to meditate on the subject, but at this point felt the timing was wrong.
Carter said the issue will be revisited at a later time, maybe in 2010. She added that the overall consensus was that the raises were deserved, but the time was not right because of the economy.
In February, Cowan presented a 2008 salary survey conducted by Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia member cities; Covington was in the middle of the scale of elected officials salary pay for cities of comparable size offering a comparable services.
At the time, Cowan said that the decisions the council is required to make affect much more than just the city’s 14,712 residents but also all county residents living in the eastern half of the county that the city provides gas services to including residents living as far away as Newborn and Mansfield.