At the first meeting of the “new” Columbus City Council, the council voted 5-1 to rescind an almost 30 percent pay raise, initially passed by the council on a 3-2 vote as Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart did not attend the June 18 meeting.
As the last item on the agenda, Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin, who opposed the pay raise June 18, asked that the pay increase once more be discussed.
The pay raise, which was scheduled to begin July 1, increased the pay of an individual council member from $17,500 annually to $21,500, which is an additional $4,000. Council members also currently receive Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance and other fringe benefits, including a public employee retirement plan through the state.
“Councilmen, I would like for us to consider tonight or to look at…at the last council meeting, the city council approved a $4,000 raise for each one of the councilmen up here. Councilman Stewart was not involved in that process and I would like for us to discuss that tonight,” Gavin said. “This pay raise comes at a very inopportune time for the city. The city’s sales tax has been down eight out of the last nine months. We’re now over $100,000, or below $100,000, where we were last year. That money is not going to come back into the city coffers. Also property values have decreased and the value of a mill is a lot less than it was several years ago.”
Gavin said if the council would not rescind the pay raise, he would use his increase for philanthropic purposes.
“If the council does not rescind the raise, I will use the money to start a scholarship out at East Mississippi Community college where I work and I will put that money back into the community.”
Ward 3 Councilman Box seconded Gavin’s motion and said he, too, opposed the raise and he would use his money to help the community.
“I had the same kinds of comments to me, ‘the easy thing to do would be to just refuse it.’ But I’ve decided to do the same thing Bill’s going to do. I’ve talked to Mr. Boyd at the YMCA and I will take any additional money I get, I’ve already talked to (Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell) about that, and I will give it to the YMCA to provide scholarships for kids whose parents work for the city. So thats what I will do with any additional money I get. I am opposed to the pay raise.”
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, who seconded the initial pay raise and voted for its approval, said he had changed his mind about the money.
“I, too, tonight will refuse the pay raise and vote along with my colleagues to rescind the pay raise,” Karriem said. “I don’t think it’s the right time and I can’t really take a pay raise as I see my brothers and sisters walk up and down the streets needing employment and jobs and stuff. I don’t think it’s the right time and I will be voting with these three to rescind the pay raise tonight.”
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, who supported the pay raise June 18, also voted for it to be rescinded as did newly-elected Ward 4 Councilman Marty Turner.
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, who had the pay increase request added at the last minute to the June 18 agenda, was the only councilman to vote against rescinding the raise.
The Council Also Approved The Following Actions:
• Taylor was selected as Vice Mayor on a 5-1 vote. Karriem voted against the selection.
• The Vice Mayor term will be in one-year increments
Turner made the motion. The vote was split 3-3 with Mayor Robert Smith casting the tie-breaking vote. Box, Karriem and Gavin voted against Turner’s motion.
• The city will accept request proposals for its next city engineer and engineering firm.
• Scott Colom will replace Shane Tompkins as city prosecutor. The vote was 4-2 with Box and Gavin voting in support of retaining Tompkins.
• Nicole Clinkscales and Mark Amos were both retained as municipal court judges.
• Jeff Turnage was retained as city attorney.
• Fred W. McCaleb was appointed to a four-year term on the Historic Preservation Board.
• Six entry-level firefighters were hired.
• FAA FY 2013 Airport Improvement Program Grant Application will be submitted.
• Brownfield resident advisory board committee was created.