The council had voted unanimously on Dec. 20 to raise council members’ salary to $8,000 annually and the mayor’s to $10,000 annually beginning in January 2014.
Mayor Gene Hobgood later vetoed the ordinance calling for the salary increase, causing the matter to go to an additional council vote. The council voted Thursday to sustain his veto.
“It’s never been a big issue one way or the other except for the fact that it’s a pittance compared to other comparable cities,” Council Member Bill Bryan said before the vote during Thursday’s meeting.
In a written explanation of his veto, Hobgood said the city and its residents are facing the worst economic times since the 1920s, making it a time for less government spending.
“An increase in council compensation of almost 300 percent and an increase in the mayor’s compensation of more than 200 percent is unwise at this time,” he stated.
During Thursday’s meeting, Council Member Hooky Huffman accused Hobgood of spinning the facts by referring to the raise as a percentage instead of using dollar figures. The council had voted to raise council salaries to $8,000 from $2,100 and the mayor’s salary from $3,000 to $10,000.
Hobgood also stated in his explanation that elected officials seek office out of a sense of service and not a desire for compensation.
As for the $41,000 annual cost of the salary increase, Hobgood said the money “could be better spent for other needs of the city, including emergency services.”
Hobgood acknowledged that the City Council’s compensation lags behind that of other cities but recommended that the Council revisit the issue when the economy shows definite signs of improvement.
Before the vote Thursday, Council Member John Beresford said he’s been in favor of raising the Council’s compensation since before he was elected.
“I told everyone I’d support an increase in compensation. I felt the compensation was wrong, and I support what we did,” he said.
Council Member Glen Cummins made a motion to adopt the salary change in 2016 instead of 2014, but the Council was legally allowed to only vote to sustain or override the veto.
“I am against voting for a compensation increase for myself,” he said.
Cummins then made a motion to sustain the veto.
The veto was sustained in a 4-2 vote, with John Beresford and Bob Rush voting to override.