Cape Girardeau City Council holds required discussion on officials' pay, takes no action

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

With an eye on elections that will bring at least three and perhaps four new faces, the Cape Girardeau City Council discussed Monday whether it was time to give itself a raise.

The city charter requires such a discussion every five years. Since the city adopted a charter in the 1980s, council members have been paid $100 a month and the mayor has been paid $150 monthly. The last action on council pay was a one-year suspension of those salaries in advance of a tax election in 2005.

The council Monday also finalized work on two big agenda items that the new council members must implement -- a revamped zoning code and a $21 million, five-year plan for roads that voters will see as a sales tax extension Aug. 3.

If council members wanted to increase their pay before new council members are elected April 6, they would have to pass a final ordinance by March 26. But while there was clear sentiment for studying the issue, no one lobbied for immediate action.

Mayor Jay Knudtson, one of three sure to be replaced because of term limits, noted that most city employees have not had a raise for three years. "It would be difficult for me to support any kind of increase," Knudtson said.

A survey of similar-sized cities showed a wide range of salaries. In Columbia, Mo., and Springfield, Mo., the mayor and council are not paid. In Sikeston, Mo., they receive $1 per year. In Blue Springs, Mo, the pay is $18,000 annually for the mayor, $9,800 annually for council members and a pension. In Paducah, Ky., the pay is $22,500 annually with health insurance benefits.

"Politically, it is easy to understand why this has remained unchanged for 29 years," said Ward 5 council member Mark Lanzotti. However, he said, "it should be examined."

In the vote on zoning, Ward 4 council member Loretta Schneider tried unsuccessfully to reverse a decision creating a zoning district for larger agricultural properties. The same four council members who added the section -- Lanzotti, John Voss of Ward 1, Charlie Herbst of Ward 2 and Marcia Ritter of Ward 6 -- voted against the change.

Schneider said the zoning district addition showed disrespect to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the work done on the new code. Schneider also said she disliked allowing hunting within city limits. She was joined by Ward 3 council member Debra Tracy and Knudtson in trying to remove the designation.

The agricultural zoning created some concerns, Ritter said, but overall she said she supported it. "I have worked through in my mind that it is just another option."

rkelle@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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