Council to consider pay increase

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By Stan Welch

While he was not present at council worksession held last Tuesday (Dec. 29), Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess nevertheless made a major impact. Unable to attend, he sent along a suggestion that the salary for the mayor be restored to the level it was at ten years ago.

That level was set at $2,000 per month, and was reduced to $800 per month during the town’s direst financial straits several years ago. The salary for the Council members was also reduced from $600 a month to $400.

While Burgess’ recommendation applied only to the mayor’s salary, Mayor Mack Durham said that the only way he could support the raise was if Council members’ salaries were also restored to the previous level.

Williamston Town Council is expected to address this issue and others when they meet for the first regular monthly meeting of the new year tonight, (Monday, Jan. 4, 2016) at 6:30 p.m. Also on the agenda is a name change for the new Ridge Court Extension roadway and a new ordinance to restrict vehicle traffic inthe Gatewood Subdivision.

Council will also address the abandonment and closure of Sullivan Street and appropriation of $25,000 for maintenance to the Municipal Center gym. The funds will come out of the Hospitality Tax fund.

Regarding the increase in mayor and council salary, Mayor Durham said, “I think that I can state that the town’s financial recovery has been accomplished. I think our financial status can certainly support these changes, but they should definitely apply to everyone on the Council as well.”

In the e-mail sent by Burgess to notify the Mayor of his absence, and which included the suggestion, Burgess stated that he felt the compensation was inadequate for someone who essentially worked full time at the job. He also opined that the current salary offers future potential candidates very little incentive to pursue the job.

He also emphasized that he has no intentions of seeking the mayor’s job, and would not benefit from the adoption of his recommendation. Mayor Durham and town attorney Lee Cole both explained that the pay hike could not be instituted until an election for at least a majority of the Council seats takes place. State law does not allow a sitting body to vote itself a raise without such an election taking place.

Cole suggested that the increased amounts be included in the 2016 budget ordinance, with the raises to be implemented following the 2016 elections, probably in January of 2017.