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Pay hikes defended by mayor, city council

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Aug. 9, 2001
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith and some city councilmen defended their own pay raise Wednesday despite talk that sluggish revenues may mean no salary increase for city workers.
Smith said that the mayor hasn't received a pay raise since 1985. Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson said council members haven't received a raise in about 13 years.
City council members voted in March 2000 to raise salaries for the mayor and council beginning July 1, after the 2001 city elections and the start of the next four-year term.
Annual pay for the mayor jumped from $60,000 to $75,000. Annual pay for the city council jumped from $14,000 to $18,000; the pay for council president went from $16,500 to $20,000.
Last week, city leaders began work drafting the city budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Councilmen have the next two months to draft and approve a new city budget.
City leaders said rising expenses and sluggish tax revenues could mean no pay raises for city employees. They also said they are considering a 5 percent property tax increase.
City leaders said that employees usually receive a cost-of-living raise. Last year, employees received an $800 raise or a 2.5 percent raise, whichever was more.
Smith said at his biweekly news conference Wednesday that he takes home $3,400 a month after taxes and other deductions. Smith said he also is not reimbursed for city-related travel and entertainment expenses.
Afterward, he said a cost-of-living raise for employees should be top priority if the economy improves.
Henson said that city council members work many hours even though the job technically is considered a part-time position.
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith said that he has heard a few people complain about the proposed tax increase. But, he said, he hasn't heard anyone complain about the mayor's and councilmen's raises.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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