Bend’s mayor and city councilors would earn a percentage of what residents make under a proposal discussed Tuesday.
In May, voters will decide whether Bend residents should directly elect their mayor and whether councilors’ $200-a-month stipends should be removed from the city’s charter, clearing the way for the first raises for city councilors since 1995. The Bend City Council wants voters to know what those raises could look like before the May election, so a group of former councilors and members of the city’s charter review committee will spend the next few weeks working on a recommendation.
On Tuesday, the seven-member committee tentatively agreed to tie both council and mayor stipends to the area median income, with councilors making 10 percent and the mayor making 20 or 25 percent. With current numbers, that would work out to about $6,100 a year for councilors and between $12,200 and $15,250 for the mayor — substantially more than the $2,400 each councilor and Mayor Casey Roats make now.
Brent Landels, a committee member and the former co-chairman of Bend’s charter review committee, said tying elected official stipends to the median income would allow pay to keep up with the city’s progress. Councilors made $50 a month from 1960 to 1995, when they started taking home $200 a month.
“If the city’s doing better, the councilors are doing better,” Landels said. “If the city’s doing worse, the councilors are doing worse.”
All committee members were on board with paying councilors 10 percent of the median income, and Landels, former Mayor Oran Teater and former charter review committee members Chad Sage and Don Leonard supported making the mayor’s stipend 25 percent. Chairwoman Kathleen Meehan Coop — a former member of the charter review committee — former Mayor Jim Clinton and former state Sen. Chris Telfer preferred paying the mayor 20 percent of the median income.
Clinton, who told The Bulletin in November that $40,000 would be a fair salary for a mayor, said the committee was “boxed in” on what it recommended because of the upcoming election.
“I’m 100 percent certain that if we come up with $50K for the mayor, then we can automatically kiss off the charter changes as far as the voters,” he said.
Meehan Coop said while she’d personally lean toward paying the mayor more, she’s not sure if voters would agree. The pay isn’t meant to be compensation for a full-time job, she said, but it is intended to let people afford to take time off work for city business.
“We’re fixing the potential to allow everyone that wants to run to run,” she said.
The committee compared Bend to three smaller cities (Corvallis, Springfield and Medford) and three larger ones (Beaverton, Hillsboro and Gresham).
None of the smaller cities pays its city councilors, though Medford does provide workers compensation. Beaverton pays its councilors $19,200 annually, and Hillsboro and Gresham both have higher-paid council presidents who make $8,400 a year in Hillsboro and $21,200 a year in Gresham. Hillsboro pays the rest of its councilors $6,000 annually; Gresham, $20,000.
The three larger cities also provide councilors and mayors with various benefits, including life insurance, bus passes, flu shots and contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System.
Springfield and Medford also do not pay their mayor, while Corvallis offers its mayor a stipend of $1,200 a year — half of what Bend Mayor Casey Roats now makes. Beaverton has a strong-mayor form of government, in which the mayor handles administrative duties that city managers take on in other cities. Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle earns $176,992 annually, just a few hundred dollars more than Bend City Manager Eric King makes.
Hillsboro pays its mayor $24,000, and Gresham’s mayor makes $60,000.
The committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, and councilors will hear recommendations during a March 7 work session.
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