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ST. ANTHONY — The St. Anthony City Council is considering the possibility of getting a raise. Ordinance 2019-TBD, if passed, would raise the council’s pay from $250 a month to $450 a month. It would also raise the Mayor’s salary from $800 a month to $1,000 a month.

The ordinance was first read on May 23 in the most recent city council meeting. It will need to be read two more times before a decision will be made unless the council votes to dismiss the rules and agrees to vote on it during their next meeting. The next St. Anthony city council meeting will be held June 13 where they will have the second reading of the ordinance.

City Clerk Patty Parkinson said if this ordinance is passed, it will take effect on the first of January 2020.

The idea of council getting a raise began on May 9. Council Member Rod Nichols spoke with the council a month before about a raise and asked the city attorney for guidance. The attorney advised the council that they needed to consider creating ordinance.

On May 9, Council Member Chad Quayle provided the council with a salary survey provided by AIC (Association of Idaho Cities). The survey looked at the population and salaries of cities similar in size to St. Anthony.

“Quayle listed the survey by population,” read the May 9 city council minutes. “The range of salaries in cities with a population between 3,000 and 4,000 was, for the Mayor, $375 to $1,300 per month and for council members, $150 to $640 per month. Many smaller cities showed higher salaries. Quayle said he likes the idea of a scale. He said it is a strange sensation to set your own salary. Every four years there is an election, which will decide how well you are doing in your job. Quayle said we have to rely on each other and, to put it bluntly, he believes the council needs a raise. He continued saying, he believes his peers are doing a great job and it’s been a long time since there was a raise in salaries.”

According to the minutes, Nichols said the city has enough money in reserves to pay for one full year of city operating expenses and that if the city was in the red it “wouldn’t be right” for them to consider getting a raise. However, he said that the city salaries should be comparable to cities of similar size to them.

“[Nichols said] some of us may not be here in January and, in three or four years, maybe none of us will be here,” the minutes read. “We need to be mindful of future councils.”

According to the minutes, creating this ordinance does not require a public hearing. However, Parkinson did recommend that the council read it three times to allow citizens to voice their opinions during the public comment period.

“Council Member Browning said he feels like most of the other council members,” the minutes read. “It is odd to set your own salary. His point of view is, some months he feels like he doesn’t deserve it and other times he feels like he’s done his duty. He said he really feels like the Mayor should be earning more. He does more and represents the city, attending many meetings. He was surprised he only earns $800 a month. The $200 per month the council members make really doesn’t make a difference to him and he didn’t think it makes a difference to any other council member. However, looking at it, it’s been several years since an increase and if they were worth $225 six years ago and the Mayor $800, then we ought to be worth a little more, just for inflation. He said he was thinking $325 for council and $1,000 for Mayor. He said half of what the Mayor gets is too much for council.”

According to the minutes, Mayor Donald Powell said that he felt that having an adequate salary would encourage those who need money but want to run for office feel like they can serve their community and survive.

The last time the salary was changed for the council was in 1997 and for the Mayor it was 2005.

According to the minutes, Nichols said that officials have the option to opt out of receiving salary despite a salary raise.

“Council Member Willmore said he took this on as a service to his community,” the minutes read. “He doesn’t think he should be making half of what the Mayor makes. His only concern is that he doesn’t want to raise taxes so they can have an increase. Everybody wants more, schools, ambulances, fire districts. He doesn’t want to raise taxes. He wouldn’t be opposed to what Ashton gets. Their Mayor receives $700 per month and council receives $350 per month. Nichols said the council hasn’t increased taxes for the last six years. By law a city can raise taxes by three percent per year. If you compound that, it would be, like, 20 percent. We should be mindful of that. Willmore said he doesn’t want to raise taxes. Nichols said the change in salaries wouldn’t justify enough to require a raise in taxes. Any tax increase would be justified only by capital expenditures. The increases he is proposing wouldn’t impact the budget at all.”

Council Member Tom Erickson agreed with Willmore and said that he didn’t know that council members got paid. Erickson was even shocked when he received his first paycheck.

At this point in the May 9 meeting, Mayor Powell asked those in the audience for their opinion.

“Val Luras said you need to keep up with the times and give yourself a raise,” the minutes read. “Everyone else has been given raises. You are here doing a job, taking time out of your day, doing research for the city, making the city better. Therefore, you should be paid.”

William Hillis, a member in the audience, asked the council if it would be better that they have an ordinance that would just give them a periodic raise based on the city’s earnings so that they wouldn’t have to go through this process again.

Parkinson replied that because of how specific the State Code is in and how this process works, they wouldn’t be able to do that. She said they have to create an ordinance that provides the specific salaried amounts.

“Paul Romrell said he supports what they are talking about. He said if this is well advertised it can be okay,” the minutes read. “When they raised salaries for the county commissioners they were all voted out. It is interesting; the new commissioners didn’t then lower that salary when they took office. In the State Legislature, a citizen committee sets the salary, appoint by the governor. This is done every two to three years. Romrell said he has been in the city 50 years and he hasn’t attended very many council meetings. As a taxpayer, when he hears the city has enough in reserves to run the city for a year, he ponders and thinks the city is not a financial institution, it is a service institution. Where there is enough surplus and it won’t create a tax increase, he strongly recommends an increase. A decent salary helps, even to the existing council members, to have a greater desire to represent the people. He would support an increase of upwards to $500 per month.”

According to the minutes, Jube Kunz, an audience member, also said that he would support the city receiving a raise.

“They do a difficult job and spend a lot of time on decisions, which are not always well liked. He said they are far underpaid for the services they do,” the minutes read. “Maybe the council doesn’t need the money, but there may be someone out there wanting to run for council who may need it.”

Parkinson said that some on the city council feel that they are servants of the community and that they aren’t in it for the money. She said it is her opinion that their job has value and that it should be fairly compensated.

This article originally ran on rexburgstandardjournal.com.

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