Alderman Barbara Best proposed that board members get a 30 percent raise.

 

Alderman Barbara Best took a brave stand during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, one that critics would accuse her as being self-serving.

Best made a motion for members of the board to receive a 30 percent pay raise over the remainder of their four-year terms in office. It amounts to $2,429 in extra income, bringing their annual pay (except the mayor and mayor pro tem, who each earn more) to just over $10,000 per year.

Aldermen Jameesha Harris and Johnnie Ray Kinsey backed Best’s motion. Aldermen Sabrina Bengel, Bobby Aster, and Jeffrey Odham opposed it. Mayor Dana Outlaw opposed it, too.

Rookie aldermen nearly always are shocked by the amount of time it takes to be an alderman.

“It’s classified as a part-time position, but it’s a full-time job,” Best said. “… I’m quite sure constituents put us in place because they thought we would work hard for them, but I do feel we need to be compensated.”

The last time the board received a raise was in 2008, a 2.5 percent increase amounting to $216 a year. Dallas Blackiston, in his parting comments when he left the board, said he felt the board salaries should be raised to at least $10,000 due to all the work aldermen do.

Bengel said she has a service-oriented heart. “We work very hard, there is no doubt about it. Sometimes you have to do things when you know that you don’t get anything for it.” She said she has been working hard to squeeze every dollar she can find out of the city budget to put that money where it needs attention.

Aster said he could not support a raise of that magnitude without giving all the other city workers something similar.

Outlaw and Odham did not comment beyond casting their “no” votes. I suspect that they don’t need the money and don’t have the stomach to face constituents and city workers who might object to aldermen giving themselves such a steep raise.

The problem with expecting elected representatives to do it for free or token compensation is, only those who are well off through other sources can spend what amounts to a full-time job doing what amounts to volunteer wages.

The best way to discourage young people, people on fixed incomes, and people with low wages from seeking public office, is to make it impossible or nearly impossible for them to serve. The easiest way to accomplish that is by not paying them.

According to Payscale.com, city council members surveyed make $19,309 to $88,084 per year, with a median of $39,908. Alderman Best’s proposed pay raise of $2,429 would bring New Bern aldermen to $10,000 — a paltry sum by comparison.

There’s this notion that only rich people are intelligent and that people who are not wealthy are unintelligent. And of course, you want only intelligent people to serve in elected office.

The truth is, some people find wealth measured differently than in dollars, which could make them well-suited to serve public office were there not the pesky issues of paying the rent and putting food on the table.

Being an alderman is a full-time job and a demanding one, at that. The board should reconsider Best’s proposal and, for those board members who don’t want the money, they don’t have to take it. But for young parents and retirees, a couple of hundred bucks extra a month would make a big difference and not affect the overall city budget by one iota.

The whole issue of pay raises has City Hall in a tizzy. Long-time workers are complaining that they don’t get as much of a raise as newer workers. If measured in percentages, that’s usually true. But as measured in actual dollars, it’s probably not true.

For example, a top tier city official making $100,000 a year (mind you, I’m rounding DOWN to the nearest hundred thousand) gets a 1 percent raise. That means he gets an extra $1,000 a year. A worker making $20,000 a year gets a 2 percent raise. That amounts to $400 a year.

In what world can someone getting a $1,000 a year pay raise say he is getting a smaller raise than someone getting an extra $400 a year?

Of course, there are a lot more people making $20,000 a year, which makes it harder for top tier officials to get that four-figure annual raise they feel they so richly deserve.

At least it isn’t the corporate world, where CEOs on average make 70 times more than their average workers and in some cases 300 times more.

Come on. We’re not talking about a lot of money. Pay the aldermen a little more so that they can pay their bills.

~ Randy Foster / New Bern Post

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Pay their bills? This is what the oaybwas when they ran. They havent even been in office for 6 months. They want to base pay on merit well what makes them exempt? There are employees who work at the city to feed their families, who have a proven track record. They deserve a raise, not after 5 months in the position. Its going to be jnteresting to watch how the Career workers take the Elected officials request based on the raises for each. I smell a revolt and a divide between the elected 4 year leaders and the Real career workers

  2. As soon as teachers get even 10%, we can start talking about aldermen. Maybe they shouldn’t have run for the office if they didn’t feel compensation was fair. Maybe they should have spent less on their campaign signs that are still all over New Bern. How many of the other aldermen polled were from towns of only 30,000 people? My vote on pay raises — NO WAY.

  3. Aldermen & Alderwomen aren’t supposed to take the job to make a living. They should do it out of a sense of serving the city citizens. If they want more money they should ask for a smaller percentage up front like 10% maybe. Then ask for the same cost of living adjustments annually that city employees get.

  4. They knew what they were getting into when they ran for the office. And you have City employees driving vehicles that are falling apart. City workers that that aren’t getting paid a decent salary. I say, “If ya can’t take the heat get it if the kitchen.”
    An elected position such as alderman/alderwoman is not a job to support your family, if that just what you are seeking the seek a job in the work force.

    1. The scary part is if anyone did NOT know what the job was all about. And now he/she is “representing” us. Only time will tell what the truth is.

  5. Best worked for the City of New Bern for almost 2 decades. She knew what the Alderman job requirements and pay were before throwing her hat in the ring.

    Harris should have thought twice before leaving her full-time job if personal household expense requirements could not be met on the reduced income of an Alderman.

    Kinsey is the only one that may have a legitimate claim since he’s been an Alderman in previous terms AND if he puts in all the hours Best and Harris say they do.

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