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Committee approves mayoral pay hike; eyeballs increase for council training, mailers

By Brandi Makuski

The City of Stevens Point has given early approval to an annual pay increase for the mayor effective in 2019.

The city’s personnel committee on Monday approved a one-percent salary increase for the next mayoral term, which begins in April 2019. According to HR Director Lisa Jakusz, the city recently made a commitment to keep up with annual COLA (cost of living adjustment) increases for non-elected employees at a rate of about 2.5 percent.

Jakusz said an elected official’s salary must be set prior to the next term, so no current official can benefit from an increase unless they are re-elected. The increase would be beneficial for anyone wishing to take out nomination papers for the mayoral seat in the spring, she added.

“So this is not necessarily for Mayor Wiza,” she said.

The salary hike was suggested by Wiza, who in a memo to the committee said it was “time to review compensation for positions to be elected in 2019”, adding he recommended a “modest” increase.

City Treasurer Corey Ladick said the increase would be in effect for about eight months next year and cost an extra $1,000 from the city’s 2019 operational budget.

Councilwoman Tori Jennings called the increase “a hard decision” because Stevens Point was already “at the upper end” of mayoral salaries in comparison with five other communities of similar size included in Wiza’s memo. The mayor currently earns $74,295 a year, compared with Neenah, which pays its mayor $79,250; Wausau, which pays $74,851; Manitowoc, with a mayoral salary of $73,043; a Wisconsin Rapids salary of $64,706; and Marshfield, which offers a $150 monthly allowance in addition to a $22,500 mayoral salary.

Jennings also referenced additional expenses allocated to the mayor’s office for travel, public relations, training, and miscellaneous expenses, which under Wiza total about $8,000 a year.

“You are always quick to point out to council, whenever we ask for something, you always ask, ‘Where is that money going to come from?'” Jennings said. “So from a leadership position, I would be leaning towards, ‘Why take an increase in salary, given the salary you have?'”

Jennings said salary increases were a good way to incentivize employees but didn’t necessarily motivate an elected official to perform better.

In response, Jakusz pointed out anyone elected as mayor may have to take a pay cut when they get elected to the post; the increase would attract and retain quality electeds, she said.

Voting in favor of the mayoral salary increase were councilwomen Cindy Nebel, Mary McComb, and Cathy Dugan. Councilwoman Tori Jennings voted against the measure.

If given final approval at next Monday’s city council meeting, the mayor would earn $75,038.40 beginning April 16, 2019, increasing over the four-year term to $77,312.14 in 2022.

The committee voted down a proposal to increase aldermanic salaries beginning in 2019. The 2.5 percent increase would have raised the city council members’ salaries from $5,300 to $5,380 per year. Prior to 2016, council salaries had been frozen at $4,800.

The council president receives an additional $200 per year.

Jennings said money wasn’t a motivating factor for the council, even though they spend a lot of time doing research. But she did say the city could provide additional funding for aldermanic training and postal communication council members send to constituents. The city has a line item for aldermanic training and miscellaneous expenses of $272, an amount that is split between all 11 council members.

“One single mailing in my district costs about $450, so I can’t even do one single mailing, which is the best way to reach all of my constituents,” Jennings said. “That’s where I see the increase needing to be; so that it’s directed at improving our communication with constituents.”

Councilwoman Cathy Dugan also said she’d paid for mailings out of her own pocket, adding the U.S. Post Office was preferable to any other method of communication regarding city issues relevant to her district.

“Being able to raise that budget a little would help,” Dugan said.

Wiza said he experienced the same challenges when he was an alderman, and he compensated with a lot of “face to face” communication.

Ladick said the council could vote to increase both the salary and miscellaneous budget without straining next year’s operational budget, adding “it would be nice” to have enough funds for each member of the council to send one mailer to their districts annually. Wiza proposed adding $3,000 to the council’s miscellaneous line item, which Ladick agreed was likely doable in 2019, but it was a soft proposal and not on the agenda.

Alderman Mike Phillips on Oct. 8 objected to all the proposed increases.

“I think we need to hold the line; I said this a few months ago,” Phillips said. “It looks like we’re cutting things so everybody gets a raise; that’s certainly what it looks like. We cut $235,000 out of our street repair, for what reason? We definitely need it in there. Hold the line; nobody should get a raise.”

The committee agreed with Phillips in part, unanimously voting down the increase for aldermanic salaries. A proposal for increasing the council’s miscellaneous budget will likely come to the Oct. 15 city council meeting.

Council members serve staggered two-year terms, with odd-numbered districts up for election in April 2019.

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