May 20, 2010 |

Hill breaks tie, rejects raises for borough leaders

The Haines Borough Assembly May 11 voted 4-3 against giving themselves a $50 per meeting raise, with a $500 per month raise for the mayor.

Under the proposed plan, assembly members also would have been compensated $50 for budget committee workshops required each year.

Mayor Jan Hill cast the tie-breaking vote. She voted the raise down because she felt a pay increase should have more assembly support. "It just didn’t seem the assembly was behind it. It was that simple."

Hill said a raise was "long overdue."

The assembly is paid $100 for each regular meeting, and the Mayor is paid $1,000 per month, for a total cost of $32,500 per year.

The raise would have cost the borough an additional $17,600 per year. Under the proposed law, assembly members also would have been paid for attendance at budget committee meetings.

Assemblywoman Joanne Waterman, who voted against giving the assembly a pay raise last week, said she had initially supported the idea but decided against it in light of the borough’s current budget projections.

The borough is drawing on its fund reserves this year to offset operating and capital costs in the face of declining revenues.

"It’s been a long time since there was a pay increase," Waterman said. "But I don’t think now is the right time."

Waterman said public servants ultimately did not serve because of the compensation.

Assemblymen Scott Rossman and Jerry Lapp also voted against a pay raise.

Rossman was opposed to the ordinance from its introduction. Lapp voted to introduce the ordinance and to advance it to a second public hearing, but ultimately voted it down.

Lapp said his change of heart had to do with contract negotiations under way between the borough and the union representing its employees. "I didn’t feel it was right to give ourselves a 50 percent raise when we’re trying to keep costs down. After a couple negotiation meetings, I thought maybe this wasn’t the time to do it. I have some other ideas I may propose later."

Assemblyman Steve Vick, who asked for consideration of the ordinance just as he was planning to leave town for a job in Fairbanks last month, said the assembly put considerable time and effort into the job and said pay hadn’t increased in many years.

Vick decided shortly afterwards to stay in Haines. He told the assembly April 27 he had introduced the ordinance because he felt assembly pay needed to be addressed, and thought it was a safe political move for him since he was leaving.

Vick said he stood by the ordinance nevertheless. "We put a lot of hours in, not only in meetings but in subcommittees" at budget workshops. "I’ve definitely had weeks where I’ve put in 20 hours."

Vick said assembly members did not choose to serve for the financial compensation, but said the raise would be a goodwill gesture for the considerable time commitment.

Assemblyman Norm Smith, who voted in favor of increasing the pay, said the borough budgeted more for recreation and animal control than it did paying its elected officials. Borough employees were negotiating a 3 percent raise, and many department heads had received substantial pay increases, he said.

According to borough records, before city and borough governments were consolidated in 2002, city councilors were paid $75 per meeting and third-class borough assembly members were paid $100. Members of both bodies received health benefits.

Benefits were discontinued around the time of consolidation.