Should St. Charles Councilmembers Get a Pay Raise?
The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Saint Charles County Council is considering giving itself a pay raise. Now, those of you expecting or hoping for some populist diatribe against those damn politicians will be sorely disappointed, but I doubt many people fitting that description read this blog. (Point in fact: Nobody reads this blog.) For the sake of comparison, here is the chart copied from the article:
Proposed new pay for St. Charles County Council — $14,375
CURRENT AREA SALARIES:
St. Louis County Council $20,000 or $12,500*
St. Peters aldermen $14,525
St. Charles County Council $12,500
St. Charles City Council $10,200
O’Fallon City Council $7,600
Wentzville aldermen $5,500
Lake Saint Louis aldermen $5,500 or $2,400*
* Amount depends on when term began.
Two additions: St. Louis city aldermen, of which there are a lot (28), make a little more than $30,000 a year. Jackson County (aka, Kansas City area) councilmembers have a neat little trick, in that they earn 24 percent of whatever circuit judges earn, so in order to find out their salary you have to look up what judges make — which I don’t feel like doing. Circuit judges probably make right around $100,000, so for the sake of argument Jackson County councilmembers probably make around $24,000. Please remember that these are all part-time positions.
For the positions above that have two salaries listed, it is because pay raises can’t go into effect during one’s current term. So, for example, on the St. Louis County Council, which raised its own salary in 2005, you have people who joined the council in 2007 (Colleen Wasinger and Barbara Fraser) making a higher salary than people who have been on the council since 2001 (John Campisi and Michael O’Mara). That’s not a criticism of the law. I’m just pointing out how it works.
I don’t think any of the county council salaries discussed here are too high, nor is the proposed St. Charles raise inappropriate. I do think Saint Louis city pays too much, on the whole, for its Board of Aldermen salaries, but I would recommend lowering the number of aldermen rather than cutting their salaries. If salaries are too low, you limit the number of people who can consider serving — even among the already limited number of people interested in public service. Those who can serve for little or no money are limited to the retired, the independently wealthy, those whose spouses are the main breadwinners (no jokes, please), and those whose jobs work seamlessly into the position (such as a union business agent). You have to pay enough that it is worth the time for the majority of people to be able to do the job if they so choose — or, more exactly, if the voters so choose.
You also have to be careful not to pay too much. This is taxpayer money, after all, and these jobs are defined as part-time. With too high of a salary, you also get people interested in the position whose main goal — how do I put this nicely? — may not be public service. I will refrain from listing any examples of this for fear of a lawsuit … which assumes that someone is still reading this post. Over and out.