City council pay bill affects Poplar Bluff, Charleston

Saturday, April 24, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Members of the Charleston and Poplar Bluff city councils would have the legal authority to vote themselves substantially higher salaries under legislation the Senate sent to the governor Friday.

The bill would repeal portions a 1939 law that caps pay at $100 a year for council members serving in cities with council-manager forms of government located in third-class counties. According to the Missouri Municipal League, that law currently covers only 16 Missouri cities, including Charleston and Poplar Bluff.

The statutory revision, which cleared the Senate 31-0, would allow such city councils to enact ordinances setting member salaries at levels they see fit.

Council members in both affected Southeast Missouri cities receive symbolic pay of one dollar a year. The mayors of those cities said they doubted their councils would choose to take advantage of the new legislation should Gov. Bob Holden sign it into law.

"We are not in it for the money," said Charleston Mayor David Manker. "We are trying to make our community a better place to live."

Poplar Bluff Mayor Loyd Matthews expressed similar sentiments.

"Those of us who are there want to serve the community," Matthews said. "Lack of pay is not a problem with any of the council members I've talked to."

In both cities, mayors are chosen for the post from among elected city council members.

State Sen. Bill Foster, a Poplar Bluff Republican and former mayor, said during the brief debate on the bill that he was unaware that under existing law his pay could have been 100 times more when he served on the council.

"That sort of makes me upset, because I could have had $99 a year more," Foster joked.

State Sen. David Klindt, R-Bethany, said the 1939 provision is antiquated and the authority to determine appropriate council salaries should be a local decision.

"Council members who serve ought to be paid a little bit for their time; $100 a year doesn't cut it," Klindt said.

The House of Representatives passed the measure last month on a 152-0 vote.

The bill is HB 1047.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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