Raise seems inappropriate right now

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 19, 2008

Issue: Some members of the Selma City Council wanted to raise the salary of the mayor&8217;s office.

Our position: Considering recent sales tax figures, a cut just like the city council cut in salary seems more in line.

Let&8217;s face it. Selma&8217;s infrastructure needs a lot of help. It has suffered from benign neglect for years.

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Buildings in the downtown area crumble, reminders of a once proud past. The worst offender of the dilapidated building eyesore is property owned by the city.

Additionally, employees at the Selma Police Department need raises, and more money is needed in the police department budget to attract more officers, according to a $48,000 study paid for by the taxpayers.

Combine that with the fact that sales tax collections in Selma are down compared to last year.

Less lodging, gasoline and tobacco, October collections of sales taxes were down $82,150.40 from fiscal 2007&8217;s $951,796.37 and December&8217;s collections were down $5,239.53 from the previous year&8217;s $924,233.80.

In the first three months of the fiscal year, Selma has posted only one month of gains in sales tax collections, and November&8217;s $46,179.33 won&8217;t make up the losses in October and December.

Yet, some people on the city council want to raise the salary of the mayor&8217;s position.

Council member Samuel Randolph made the motion and Johnny Leashore seconded the motion last week for a 20 percent raise for the mayor, which would amount to about $14,000 a year.

Randolph, Leashore, Bennie Ruth Crenshaw and Jannie Venter voted for the raise.

Reid Cain, Dr. Geraldine Allen, George Evans and Cecil Williamson voted against the raise. Councilwoman Jean Martin abstained.

The motion was defeated on a 4-4 tie. However, the raise issue could come up again. With the council&8217;s rules, anyone can bring up the issue because of the tie. If the measure had been defeated, it would have been dead, unless one person who voted with the majority made a motion to bring it up again.

The council has until Feb. 26, six months before the election, to approve a pay raise for the mayor or themselves, according to state law.

Already, the mayor earns $70,000 a year.

In addition, the mayor receives a vehicle allowance of $8,400

annually and $15,000 each year for he and his office to travel. The city also pays the mayor&8217;s health insurance, retirement benefits, life insurance and social security.

The mayor also receives a salary of $25,000 as superintendent of the Selma Water Board.

If one figures salary and listed benefits alone, that&8217;s in excess of $100,000. Other perks include a private secretary and an executive assistant. We can&8217;t find anywhere in recent history that another mayor had an executive assistant on board.

Running a city is a huge responsibility, but people who sign up for the office should know what the duties and time requirements are long before they ask people to vote for them.

Additionally, this is a job of service to the people. The people pay the mayor&8217;s salary.

Many mayors talk about running the city as efficiently as a business. They talk about cutting costs and cutting back on expenses while attempting to provide solid basic services for their constituents.

If this city&8217;s financial base is shaky and because the city is in need of many things &8212; with or without a bond issue that the voters have yet to approve &8212; then it&8217;s time for the administration, which wishes to treat government like a business, act like a responsible corporate CEO.

The CEOs who have acted responsibly in the past have not asked for raises or other incentive pay during times of shortfall. Instead, they have offered to take salary cuts and spend money wisely to bring the company up to the high standards set by the board of directors.

If the love for the city and unity and care about the way money is spent in Selma, then the administration and city council will put off any discussion of pay raises for the mayor or themselves until the city&8217;s tax collections indicate a vibrant, sustaining econmic situation

and until our infrastructure is sound.