Rock Hill City Council members should reconsider voting themselves a raise while they’re asking residents to pay $90 more a year for utilities.
We know the two are not connected. The rate increase for residents is necessary in large part to cover the city’s rising cost of purchasing power from the Piedmont Municipal Power Association.
Nonetheless, the optics are bad, especially since the council just gave itself a fat raise in October.
A majority of the council voted on June 9 in favor of a 3 percent raise. Members Kathy Pender, John Black and Kevin Sutton voted against it.
If the raise is approved on second reading, the six council members will make $16,838 each per year – a $490 raise – starting in 2016. The mayor will make $26,437 annually – a $770 raise.
That is not a king’s ransom. But it comes on the heels of a raise in October that nearly doubled the council and mayor’s salaries.
That raise was long overdue. It was the first time those salaries had been increased in nearly 25 years.
Proponents of the latest raise say it will help prevent the council from falling behind as it had before. Periodic incremental raises, they argue, are preferable to a giant raise every quarter of a century.
While we see the basic logic in that, it’s too soon for another raise. Pender said a raise every two years might be more appropriate.
The great recession has been officially over for some time, but many are still feeling its effects. Many workers have received only small raises in recent years and often no raise at all.
A 3 percent raise would be a luxury for the average worker.
Mayor Doug Echols also defended the raises by noting that by approving raises now, council members could keep the issue from coming up in an election year and keep politics out of it. But they’re not really avoiding the politics of the issue; they’re just preventing voters from expressing their opinions at the polling booth.
We supported the October raise. The council should have been receiving regular increases over those 25 years.
And we don’t begrudge public servants receiving sensible incremental raises based on inflation and bigger workloads.
But the council salaries were never meant to be a living wage. And if the city were paying the mayor and council members by the hour, it probably couldn’t afford them.
We’re grateful for what they do and the time and effort they devote to the city’s business. But giving themselves another raise in less than nine months looks bad.