One alderman opposes pay increase

Because the person who is elected city clerk next April will not have the years of experience that the current clerk does, the Vandalia City Council has voted to lower the salary for that position.
Also, over the strong objection of one alderman, the council also approved the first pay increase for aldermen in more than a decade.
The council approved a pay scale for the mayor, city clerk and aldermen that will go into effect on May 1.
Under the ordinance amendment, the mayor’s salary stays at $6,000.
The mayor’s salary has not been increased since 2012, when it was increased from $5,628.
The salary for the new city clerk will be $48,500 in the first year, $49,470 in the second year, $50,459 in the third year and $51,468 in the fourth.
At its Sept. 21 meeting, at the recommendation of Mayor Rick Gottman, the council agreed to lower the salary scale for the clerk, due to the fact that the city is losing the experience of the current clerk, Peggy Bowen, who has been in that position since 1997.
Under the current pay ordinance, the current salary is $61,515. When Bowen took over as city clerk, her salary was less than $30,000.
When it came time to vote on the aldermanic salaries, Alderman Dorothy Crawford vehemently spoke out against any increases.
“I have no problem whatsoever with the mayor and city clerk salaries – I think that’s perfectly reasonable,” Crawford said.
“I understand that the aldermen’s salaries have not been raised in 11 years. I also think that we had seasonal employees we weren’t able to bring back, we’re facing down furlough,” she said.
“We don’t know what revenues from the state we are going to see, and giving ourselves a raise is quite possibly the most irresponsible thing I think we could do right now,” Crawford said.
Other aldermen voiced their disagreement with Crawford.
Alderman Mike Hobler asked Crawford whether she voted in favor of changing the status of a city employee from part-time to full-time.
When Crawford said that she had, Hobler said that that was a $40,000 decision.
“We’re already making approximately $150 an hour, so I think we’re probably safe,”Crawford said.
“That depends on what committee you’re on, Dorothy,” Hobler said.
Alderman Russ Stunkel said to Crawford, “I don’t know how many hours you put in, but I think that’s a little bit overboard (on the hourly salary).”
Alderman Steve Barker agreed with Stunkel. “I ‘d like to add to that hourly thing, I’m out here in the ward doing something every day a little bit or something every single day, even on some weekends.
“This depends on if you’re an alderman working your ward,” Barker said.
“The lake is probably enough for two people, Mike (Hobler) would probably attest to that,” said Stunkel, the current chairman of the lake committee.
“And I think we can sit here, and I think we could justify it all we want, but we’ve got people that are losing their homes, we’ve got people that are losing their jobs,” Crawford said.
“We’re going to take revenue that is not guaranteed from the state to give ourselves more money. And I don’t think there’s any way we can justify that, not and look like we actually care about the financial future of this city,” she said.
“What are we going to do, come six months from now, eight months from now, if we have to lay people off so we just gave ourselves a raise,” Crawford said.
“How is that going to look,” she said.
When Hobler noted that it is a 2-percent increase, Crawford said, “Ninety-two dollars for the first year – drop in the bucket.
“Not worth it,” she said. “Not even close.”
Hobler said the increase works out to about $7.50 or $8 a month, adding that he feels the city has to offer enough to have people interested in serving as an aldermen.
“That’s exactly what I was going to say,” Stunkel said, pointing it that it’s been a long time since the aldermen’s salaries were increased.
The salary for aldermen has been $4,502 since 2004, which was the fourth year on the salary ordinance approved in 2000.
Barker said, “If it comes to where we’re going to lay people off I’ll donate my own salary back.”
“And I believe we (did) that the last time the city got in a crunch,” Hobler said.
On approving the salary ordinance that includes increases for aldermen, Hobler, Barker, Stunkel, Ken Hubler, Bret Brosman and Joel Rebbe voted “yes.”
Crawford’s vote was “Hell no.”
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• The council gave the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department permission to use money from the Hazel Simma Kelly Fund and the Scarpaci fund to purchase two thermal cameras from Mac’s Fire & Safety.
• The council agreed to seek bids for a new tanker truck for the VVFD. The action, Gottman pointed out, “is not to spend money at this time.”
The pumper would replace the current tanker, which was purchased in 1995.
• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 603 from James Meyer of Shobonier to Will Baldock of Vandalia.
• The council voted to pay Municode $5,750.98 to update the city’s municipal code and to provide 20 copies of the code.
• The council ratified action from its previous meeting to support and commit to the use of local funds to be applied to an Illinois Community Development Block Grant for a new water plant.
• Crawford congratulated Gottman on being elected president of the Illinois Municipal League Board of Directors.
• Stunkel, chairman of the council’s water plant, noted that the city had received from the coach of the McKendree University bass fishing team a letter of thanks for allowing the city to use Vandalia Lake for the McKendree Fall Invitational Tourney at the end of last month.
The tournament drew 36 teams from 10 universities and five states.

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