Council Paves Way to Give Themselves Raises
By Craig Richards, LNNUSA.com
PETERSBURG – The Petersburg City Charter had established a method to ensure city officials had some means of checks and balances when it came to giving themselves raises. After the April 20th council meeting, those measures have been eliminated. Now it is council that has voted to adopt the State Code that allows them to give themselves raises unimpeded by citizen input.
Item number 8. B. of Tuesday’s meeting included a public hearing and consideration of adoption of an ordinance to request that the General Assembly approve amendment of Section 2-7 of the City Charter pertaining to Council Salaries. City Attorney Anthony Williams lead a discussion about his research into the issue.
“The city charter has a process in place for city council to proceed with providing raises for city council. It’s a fairly elaborate process. It involves the court and a panel and a lot of other bells and whistles,” Williams said. He went on to explain that the City Charter is subject to a State Code which was adopted presumably after the charter provision that describes the method by which localities are to provide their governing bodies with raises.
The City Charter contains special legislation that applies to exactly how city councilors would get raises. Williams continued to explain that typically special legislation supersedes general legislation. The exception is when state code says that a particular State Code provision supersedes special legislation, then the state code would supersede the charter. He said that State Code 15.2-1414.6 defines that the annual salary of each member of council shall be set by its members including the mayor and council.
In this case Williams noted that the State Code included “the annual salary of each member of the council of any city shall be set by its members by ordinance notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, general or special.” So, by State law the councilors have the right to set their own salary.
The only limitation set on council would be the amount also established in state code as determined by the city’s population. For Petersburg, the salary of the Mayor and Council is based on a population of 20,000 to 34,999 capping the salaries at $13,000 for the Mayor and $12,000 for councilors.
Mayor Samuel Parham opened the floor to public comment. Although the two residents speaking were opposed to taking the citizens input out of process and encouraged the council to research this further, council immediately moved on the issue. Without further discussion Councilor Darrin Hill moved to adopt the State method for raises and Councilor Howard Myers seconded. The Mayor called for any additional discussion. Seeing none he went to a roll call, resulting in a 7-0 vote.
Currently councilors receive $6,500 annually and the Mayor receives $8,500 annually. And while the ballot box would determine who receives annual salaries in the future, it will not determine how much. That decision now falls squarely on the shoulders of the council itself.