Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

After veto, council approves pay raise

by Chris Schultz

August 29, 2013

Mayor Jim Connors’ veto of pay raises for the Lake Geneva mayor and city council members will stand.
But the council was quick to approve another pay package, designed to ease the mayor’s concerns.
The Lake Geneva City Council voted 5-3 on Monday to overturn the mayor’s veto. Six votes were needed to overturn.
Voting to uphold the mayor’s veto were aldermen Jeff Wall, Dennis Lyon and Gary Hougen.
Voting to overturn were council members Sarah Hill, Sturg Taggart, Ellyn Kehoe, Alan Kupsik and Bill Mott.
But the mayor’s successful veto didn’t end debate about a raise for the council members and the mayor.
And a new set of raises were approved by the council on a 7-1 vote, with only Wall opposed.
What the mayor will do is still pending.
At its Aug. 12 meeting, the council members voted 5-2 with one alderman absent, to increase the annual salaries for council members from $3,500 to $4,000 and the mayor from $6,000 to $7,500.
On Aug. 14, Connors issued his first-ever veto message.
Connors did not come out against raises for the council and mayor.
His message was that the raises were disproportionate and unfairly weighted toward the mayor.
The council members would have received a 14.3 percent raise, while the mayor received a 25 percent boost.
As the council members again discussed the proper level of city council and mayoral compensation, Kupsik successfully proposed that the raises be 14.3 percent across the board.
Council members’ pay will go to $4,000 a year, and the mayor’s compensation will be $6,858.
By law, the raise approved by the council will not begin until the next round of municipal elections.
Lake Geneva has four aldermanic districts with two council members each. Council members serve staggered two-year terms.
The mayor’s seat is also up for election in 2014.
Those elected in the 2014 election would be the first to get the raises, followed by council members elected in 2015.
The issue of council and mayoral compensation came up because neither of the elected positions has seen a pay raise since 2008.
During the Aug. 5 committee of the whole meeting, City Clerk Mike Hawes presented a pay study of city council and village boards, mayors and village presidents in Wisconsin municipalities with populations between 5,000 and 15,000.



He found that the median pay for mayors and village presidents was $7,200 and $3,600 for council members and trustees.
Hill said she didn’t relish hashing out the reasons for increasing council and mayor compensation again.
But she pointed out that those who sit around the council table bring a great deal of experience to city policy making.
“Some of us at this table have skill sets that are providing $80,000 to $100,000 in services to the city,” Hill said.
And the amount of compensation is small, she said.
“We’re talking about real money here, but we’re not talking about real compensation,” Hill said. “You do more than $7,500 worth of work,” she said to Connors.
Lyon argued that going five years without considering the level of compensation for council members and the mayor is unacceptable. He said the city needs a systematic method of reviewing pay for the mayor and council and determining reasonable raises in a reasonable amount of time.
Wall argued that the state median for council and village board pay stands at $3,600, which puts the raises approved by the council out of line with the state.
He said the council gave staff a 3 percent raise and a 2 percent stipend. “I don’t think we need to go beyond 5 percent,” Wall said.
Mott said that when he ran for alderman, he didn’t realize council members were paid.
However, he said that if the raises approved for the council and mayor were averaged out over the past five years, they would come to less than 5 percent per year.
Taggart said the raises would have a small impact on the city budget, and they seemed in line considering it was the council that set the pay for other city employees.
Connors said he doesn’t see the council and mayor’s pay as a “salary.” Rather, said Connors, it is a stipend paid to defray the costs of travel and working as an elected city official.