Bend City Council

Bend City Council meeting from Feb. 17, 2021.

If there’s one thing guaranteed to cause controversy for the Bend City Council, it’s talking about how councilors are compensated. If there’s one change the Bend City Council perhaps should make, it’s adjusting their compensation.

What kind of Bend City Council does Bend want? Should the city offer more compensation so more people would feel like they could afford to run? And what would be the right level of compensation?

Councilors decided Wednesday night to discuss the matter further, perhaps in April.

One thing we should clarify is that councilors can’t just vote themselves a pay raise. Any increase wouldn’t take effect immediately. It would take effect for whomever is elected after the next council election. For instance, if this council approves a change in compensation, it would only take effect for people sworn into for the positions currently held by Mayor Sally Russell and councilors Gena Goodman-Campbell and Barb Campbell.

Councilors are currently paid $638 a month, and the mayor gets $1,277 a month. That’s based on a formula tied to area median income. They get some slight other benefits, such as reasonable expenses and some meals during meetings. And to be a good councilor, there is a time commitment, stress and responsibility that is like getting a second job.

Councilor Rita Schenkelberg kicked off the new conversation about compensation. She said if people from all different backgrounds and socio-economic status are to be able to serve on the council, compensation needs to enable them to do so.

Information reported by The Bulletin’s Brenna Visser does show Bend’s compensation is somewhat low compared to what other cities in Oregon offer with volunteer positions.

Running for the council does come with benefits beyond compensation. Councilors get to try to put their stamp on the future of this community. It’s also a privilege to represent the community. And any increase in compensation means less money available for the city’s other needs. But if the pay stays at $7,500 per year for councilors or $15,000 per year for mayor, running for office will never be an option for some people. Is that what Bend should have? Let us know by writing a letter to the editor of up to 250 words and send it to letters@bendbulletin.com.

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