Our Opinion: Pay cut for city’s elected policy-makers?

Is it time for Jefferson City’s elected policy-makers to take a pay cut?

Bryan Pope, the 3rd Ward Councilman who will leave office next month, is considering a parting gift to reduce the salaries for the mayor and his peers on the council.

The City Charter stipulates that compensation for the mayor and council members will be set by ordinance and cannot be altered during a term in office. Monthly compensation is $900 for the mayor and $450 for council members.

“The council is at about its lowest opinion by the public,” Pope said. “In these difficult times, it would help.”

The difficult times refer to the range of cuts to city department and services recently approved by the council to offset a $1.68 million budget shortfall.

The financial woes followed backtracking on a proposal to restructure city government after a closed session appointment to a post that had not been created.

That miscue occurred after the city was unable to hire a finance director, despite two national searches.

We understand, and share, the impetus for Pope’s idea.

Salary reductions to a token $1 each, when completed, would save the city more than $64,000 annually.

If services provided to city taxpayers are going to suffer reductions, the argument can be made that city policy-makers should share the consequences.

The argument also can be advanced that public service is its own reward. The elected public school board members serve without compensation, as do many members of board and commissions.

On the flip side is the question of whether pay cuts simply pander to the public appetite to blame and punish.

Ultimately, the mayor and council members are our elected policy-makers and they largely are responsible for whether the city stalls or progresses.

An alternative to Pope’s idea — and one we favor — is to retain the salaries and insist city officials earn every penny of it.

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