Stanford could increase pay for next city council

Published 1:16 pm Monday, March 9, 2020

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Stanford City Council may consider next month whether to increase how much council members are paid. But any increase voted into law would not take effect for current council members; it would take effect for whoever is elected to the council this November.

Any decision on an increase to council members’ current pay of $150 per meeting would have to be given two readings before the first Monday in May, according to state law, Mayor Scottie Ernst said.

At the current rate, council members are paid $1,800 annually for the council’s 12 regularly scheduled meetings; that places Stanford below the 25th percentile for elected officials’ pay, according to data collected by city staff.

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Half of all cities in Kentucky with a population between 3,000 and 7,999 pay their elected officials at least $2,897. Three in four Kentucky cities with 3,000-7,999 residents pay their elected officials at least $1,950, according to the data. (Stanford’s population is 3,487.)

Council member Ronnie Deatherage called around to cities of comparable size to Stanford and did some research on his own, as well. He found pay rates ranging from $25 per meeting (in Paintsville) to more than $550 per month in Russell and Wilmore. Deatherage estimated average pay among the cities of comparable size that he called to be $229.32 this year; and he estimated it would go up to $241.82 next year, based on plans from some of the cities to increase their pay.

Deatherage also asked about elected officials’ pay in nearby cities of different sizes. He provided those pay rates to council members Thursday:

  • Junction City, population 2,241 — $100 per month
  • Jamestown, population 1,794 — $188.60 per month
  • Brodhead, population 1,211 — $0
  • Burgin, population 965 — $200 per month
  • Science Hill, population 693 — $300 per month
  • Hustonville, population 405 — $100 per month
  • Liberty, population 2,168 — $400 per month
  • Crab Orchard, population 841 — $200 per month

Ernst said Thursday he was thinking about doubling council members’ current pay from $150 to $300 per meeting. In order to do that, the council would have to vote on a new ordinance twice before May 4, meaning there would have to be a special called meeting, since the council only has one regular meeting between now and then (on April 9).

The council discussed the possibility of holding a special called meeting immediately preceding its April 9 meeting for the purpose of considering the pay raise. If the council voted in favor of a first reading after discussing the issue at that special called meeting, it could then vote for a second reading at the regular meeting.

The council also discussed the possibility of tying council members’ pay to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), meaning it could essentially increase over time with inflation. That’s a change City Attorney John Hackley said could be made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, based on his reading of the law.

The council could pass a CPI increase each year, or it could make the CPI increases automatic, Hackley said. He also explained that CPI increases aren’t technically considered “compensation” by state law, which is why they can be added to council members’ pay outside of the normal channel for increasing elected officials’ pay.

Council members said the increase this year would amount to a little more than $3. Council member Dalton Miller said he would be in favor of making CPI increases automatic “to protect the people that come after us” on the council.

“If we’re going to do it … I would say go ahead and make it permanent, that way we don’t have to deal with it every year,” Miller said.

The council voted to table the matter until April.