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Huntsville City Council votes for third time to raise the pay of councilmembers, mayor

Thursday night's vote was the third time the topic had been voted on in 2019.

Posted: Dec 19, 2019 10:40 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2019 10:28 AM

For the third time in 2019, the city council in Huntsville voted to increase the pay of members and the mayor.

In a 4-1 decision, the council voted in favor of an ordinance that would raise the pay for both council members and the mayor by 15 percent. 

Huntsville City Council votes to increase the salaries of both members and the mayor in a 4-1 vote Thursday, December 19, 2019. Huntsville City Council votes to increase the salaries of both members and the mayor in a 4-1 vote Thursday, December 19, 2019.

This new ordinance is a smaller increase than the previous one, which sought to increase the mayor's salary by about 29.4 percent, the council president's salary by 25.6 percent and the salary for other members by 33.3 percent.

Under the new ordinance, the mayor would see an increase from about $136,000 to just over $152,000, the council president would see an increase from $39,000 to more than $45,000 and the other council members would get a salary increase from $33,000 to $38,000.

Councilwoman Jennie Robinson voted against the ordinance and said that the part-time city council should not be treated like other city employees.

"We're elected to be servants. We are not full-time employees. We are 24/7 servants," said Robinson.

Councilman Will Culver, the sponsor of the bill voted on Thursday, said it would more closely align with the cost of living adjustments or "COLA" for other city employees. 

Culver said he sees this vote as a test and would like to see a vote on an ordinance that would tie council and mayoral salaries to the COLA for the city.

"This, in my opinion, is just a fair and equitable thing to do because it's consistent with what we've already done for all the other employees," said Culver.

However, Council President Devyn Keith said that's not possible.

"We cannot, by state law, correlate or tie any of our COLAs to our own pay," said Keith.

Keith added that the raise is necessary to help attract future council members to serve. 

"It's a tough decision and it is hyper, hyper-political. But I won't be here forever and a future councilmember will understand the decisions that we make today. Whether it's overturned or it's supported, until you're in this position, you just don't understand it," said Keith.

Some residents who came to speak at the meeting said they opposed the pay raise. Resident Homer Reynolds suggested adding term limits and putting the raises up for a vote to the city.

"If you put it on the ballot, let the citizens vote on it, then that would eliminate a lot of this. But I still go back to one thing: if you choose to run for public office, money should not be the motivating factor," said Reynolds.

Following the meeting, WAAY 31 spoke with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle who previously vetoed the first two pay raise proposals. He said he had not yet made a decision and would consider it over the holidays.

Another item discussed at Thursday night's city council meeting was the plan for the new $60 million city hall building. They approved a $2.7 million design contract with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc. Construction will take 18 months to complete. 

The timeline presented at the meeting showed that consultation and reviews of the design process will happen throughout 2020 with the bids for construction happening in December 2020.

"We will have all kinds of opportunities to tweak this and make adjustments and amendments to it," said Culver.

The project is scheduled to be completed at the beginning of the third quarter of 2022.

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