Council to bump up city recorder’s salary to $15K, will consider other council member raises in January

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BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council on Thursday approved a more than $5,000 pay increase for the city recorder beginning July 1, 2020, which will bump her or his pay rate up from just $9,000 to $15,600 annually.

Although council must enact the raise through an ordinance, members unanimously supported the increase, saying it’s past due since the salaries of council members, the recorder and the mayor haven’t been increased in 16 years. However, several council members suggested the city consider a more comprehensive increase that would include increases for all council members.

“I hate to bring up how cheaply paid our city recorder is, but our city recorder makes $9,000 a year,” Mayor David McCauley noted. “This isn’t a huge increase, but, if we go with the model I’m proposing, it would increase the city recorder’s salary from $9,000 to a total of $15,600.”

McCauley explained that for several decades, the city recorder and treasurer positions were combined, but that hasn’t been the case for the last six or seven years. The recorder’s salary would include $500 per month to take notes at all council and other non-utility board meetings (council meets at least twice a month), and $200 a month per board to record meeting minutes of the city’s four utility boards (each board meets once a month).

Councilman David Thomas said he’d support a pay hike for the recorder but recommended the city consider pay boosts for council members and the mayor. Thomas pointed out city council members are in the awkward position of determining their own salaries, unlike county commissioners, whose salaries are state by the state Legislature.

“When you take a look at what our CEO’s making – the mayor – versus what, for example, county commissioners make, there’s a huge difference, and we haven’t had an increase – you haven’t had an increase – in 16 years,” Thomas said, “and I think it’s also time to take a look at the city council also. Now, those who are running for city council, they would be eligible if we give an increase. Those who are not running for re-election, which is just Mary and me, I think, we would not be eligible for an increase.

“But 16 years, I think, is way too long not to have an increase,” he added.

County commissioners’ salaries vary based on assessed property valuation (see W.Va. Code 7-7-4); however, they are generally greater than $31,000.

McCauley said he was “philosophically opposed” to receiving an increase to the current $22,200 he makes currently.

“You know my position on the salary of mayor: I am philosophically opposed to it, and if I were to be re-elected, I would refuse any additional compensation,” he said. “I view this role as one of public service, and it’s just something I won’t be part of. I understand the council could usurp that, and I’ll assign whatever the difference is in what I make right now back to the city to support projects for the city.”

However, McCauley did agree to have the item placed on council’s agenda for its Jan. 2, 2020 meeting.

McCauley told current city recorder Randy Sanders, who was appointed following the unexpected resignation of former city recorder Colin Reger, that he should abstain from voting on the matter due to a potential conflict of interest.

“In the event that Mr. Sanders is to file for city recorder and then if he were to be elected on May 12, then beginning July 1, 2020, he or any other successful candidate for city recorder’s pay would be increased from $9,000 to $15,600,” the mayor said. “That’s the only thing on our agenda this evening.”

Reger’s unexpired two-year term will appear on the ballot in May.

Prior to the vote, councilman Robbie Skinner suggested council take a more comprehensive approach to pay raises.

“Hearing what Dave Thomas said and what you’ve brought to the table, would it make sense for us to develop a committee to conduct some research to figure out the best way forward for the group and not just single out the recorder?” he asked McCauley.

Councilwoman Mary Albaugh disagreed, saying she’d conducted similar research in the past regarding how city recorders are compensated.

“I contacted four or five different cities the same size as us and did a lot of research and we couldn’t find a similar place – another city that had [the same style of government as we do],” Albaugh said.

Skinner said he was not necessarily suggesting calling similar cities.

“Maybe we could look at the whole scope and not just attack one small piece of it right now but look at the entire scope and look at all the duties and all of the responsibilities of this body and make a consideration from that perspective,” he said. “I don’t think anybody runs for a position on the city council to make money. This is 100 percent, I feel, a labor of love.”

McCauley said council should proceed with a vote on the recorder’s salary so potential candidates could be aware of it prior to the May municipal election.

Albaugh made a motion to approve increasing the city recorder’s salary to $15,600, which was seconded by Thomas before passing unanimously.