During its Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, the Auburn City Council discussed and requested that the city draft an ordinance that would increase the pay for both the mayor and city council members.
The issue was brought up for discussion at the behest of Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson, who noted how much Auburn Mayor Ron Anders does for the community, including events, meetings, ribbon-cuttings and representing Auburn throughout the state.
"He does a lot of extra stuff, and I just frankly don't see how he does it," said Dawson. "And the mayor of Auburn has always been the face of Auburn."
Councilwomen Beth Witten and Connie Fitch Taylor also suggested raising the pay for council members, noting the requirements for the position.
The mayor currently makes $16,000 a year before taxes, while council members make $7,200. The last raise for the mayor came in 1990. The council received a raise in 2006. Under the proposed ordinance, which the council will consider at its meeting on March 3, the mayor's compensation would increase to $45,000 a year and council members‘ to $14,400 a year. Dawson also floated the idea of giving the mayor a vehicle allowance, although it's not clear if that will part of the proposed ordinance.
If approved, the pay raises wouldn't go into effect until after a new council is sworn in following the 2022 municipal election.
The discussion by the council came after city staff complied a survey of salaries for mayors and council members in cities with the same form of council-manager government as Auburn.
Dawson cited the pay for both positions in the neighboring cities of Phenix City and Tuskegee.
In Phenix City, the mayor is paid $35,000 a year while council members make about $27,500.
In Tuskegee, the mayor is paid $25,000 annually and council members make $10,000. Dawson and other members noted that Auburn's population has grown over the past two decades and is nearing 70,000 as one reason to raise pay in Auburn.
The most compelling reason for raising pay in Auburn, though, is that it would open up the opportunity to serve to a wider population who may not be able hold down a full-time job and still perform the duties required of a mayor or council member.
"I don't want to sit up here and look like the cat that's so happy eating the bird," said Anders, who added that he plans on seeking re-election. "This shouldn't be about me; this should be about Auburn. The reality is that with the compensation level we have today it's very difficult for a broad group of people to consider being the mayor of Auburn because of the demands on your time. You would have to be retired or potentially own your own business. But anyone that works in any kind of traditional job setting, I'm telling you you wouldn't be able to do it.
"To me, this is for Auburn's future. This is so in 2022 and 2026 and 2030 that a large group of people could consider and say, 'Yes, I could do that and if I did it I would be compensated to this level and I could design my career around that.' "
That argument appealed to Councilman Bob Parsons.
"I like what you had to say Mr. Mayor about just the idea of a wider pool of applicants who may not otherwise consider running a race for an election," he said.
Councilman Brett Smith relayed his concerns that the move could seem self-serving and successfully pressed for a public hearing to be part of the process when the ordinance is considered at the first council meeting in March.
Most councilmembers also said that they did not run for office because they would be compensated but because they had a desire to serve.