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Mayor, council not likely to rescind pay hikes

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 16, 2001
Ward 3 City Councilman Barbara Henson said Wednesday she would be willing to give up her recent raise in light of a tight 2002 budget a budget that could mean no raises for city employees.
She said she doesn't know if it is doable, since the decision to raise mayoral and city council salaries came more than a year and a half ago and was voted in by the previous city council. The pay increases became effective July 1, 2001, when newly elected or in this case, re-elected city leaders took office.
The council approved the increases "when there was no budget crisis," she said.
Council President Dr. George Thomas, who serves Ward 1, said he would not vote "to change the pay."
He said he thinks the pay is fair, and if you divided elected city leaders' total increase between all city employees, "you're talking about approximately $1 a week for an employee … $2 or $3 at maximum."
When asked if he would support giving up council pay raises, Ward 4 Councilman Jesse E. Palmer Sr. replied, "Why should we?"
If the city's income increases, employees may still get a raise, he said.
On the other hand, he said, the mayor and city council members haven't gotten a raise since before 1989. He said he forfeits his retirement.
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith said he would not support rescinding elected city leaders' increases.
Though all employees deserve a raise, he said, his $18,000 a year "is not much."
He said he doesn't ask for reimbursement for his $50-$300 a month cell phone bill, of which about 80 percent is used for city business, and he buys his own gas for checking streets.
Ward 2 Councilman Mary Perry and Mayor John Robert Smith could not be reached for comment.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.