Since Cape Girardeau voters approved a city charter in the 1980s, council members have received $100 a month and the mayor has received $150 a month. In 2005 the council voted to suspend those stipends for one year as they asked voters to approve a tax increase. The city charter requires the council to review pay for council members and the mayor every five years. Earlier this month, the council held the mandatory discussion but took no action to change the stipends.
Most city employees have not had raises for three years. Any increase for council members and the mayor would apply to anyone elected after the increase was approved. This year city voters will elect a new mayor and possibly four new council members.
It was surprising to learn what other cities pay their elected officials. The amounts range from no pay in the Missouri cities of Columbia and Springfield to $22,500 a year plus health insurance in Paducah, Ky.
The council acted appropriately by not increasing the monthly stipend. It would have been difficult to justify in the face of the current budget squeeze. The focus is -- as it should be -- on finding ways to maintain city services and rewarding the city's employees.