Resolving, for now, a topic that has divided the Prairie Village City Council for the past month, council members on Monday rescinded a provision in the proposed 2018 budget to potentially give themselves a salary.
The council voted 6-3 to remove the line item of $63,000. An attempt to entirely remove the money from the budget failed, however, so it likely will be shifted over to the fund used for street repairs and other infrastructure.
“I believe that this should be resident-driven and not council-driven to begin to pay ourselves for the first time in our city’s history,” said Councilwoman Jori Nelson, who proposed the budget change.
Council members are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2018 budget at their Aug. 7 meeting.
The mayor and council members currently receive a symbolic $1 a year for their service on the board. Mayor Laura Wassmer and other council members last year raised the possibility of paying themselves a stipend, saying their official duties had begun to exceed the work of mere volunteers.
One June 5, the council voted 5-5 with Wassmer voting to break the tie in favor of including the $63,0000 for salaries in the budget. Proponents said including the money didn’t obligate them to pay the salaries but simply laid the foundation for a discussion on the matter.
They also said they planned to ask residents in an upcoming city survey whether mayor and council salaries were appropriate, and that should help make a decision.
Critics on the board, however, said council members voting for a salary could be seen as self-serving. They also have argued that if the council members chose not to give themselves a salary, they would have taken $63,000 from taxpayers for nothing.
On June 19, Nelson proposed removing the $63,000 from the budget, but the suggestion was ignored after City Attorney Catherine Logan determined the motion was not allowed for technical reasons.
On Monday, Logan said she had been mistaken and the motion should have gone to a vote.
Wassmer and two other council members did not attend Monday’s meeting.
Councilman Steve Noll said he didn’t have an opinion of board salaries but that he objected to holding the budget process “hostage” over what he considered a “philosophical point.”
“If we’re going to go back and rehash every line item in a very large budget that somebody disagrees with, then we may extend this until some time in the fall, maybe later,” Noll said.
Councilman Eric Mikkelson, however, said the board should debate the merits of the salaries and let voters weigh in during the elections first before putting a number in the budget.
“I think we have the cart before the horse a little bit,” Mikkelson said.
Those voting to remove the $63,000 included Nelson, Mikkelson, Serena Schermoly, Andrew Wang, Dan Runion and Sheila Myers. Voting against the removal were Noll, Courtney McFadden and Brooke Morehead.
Following the vote, Mikkelson proposed lowering the property millage rate for the proposed 2018 budget by $63,000. Finance Director Lisa Santa Maria estimated the reduction of 0.174 mills would represent a savings of around $2 a year for the average Prairie Village homeowner.
The motion failed by a 2-7 vote, with Mikkelson and Runion voting in favor.
In other business, the council awarded a $38,226 contract to Conference Technology Inc. to upgrade the audio/visual system in the City Council Chamber. The existing A/V system is only five years old but frequently malfunctions. In fact, officials during Monday’s meeting had to use a tabletop projector to display agenda items because the video system was not working. Conference Technology, which advised the city on upgrading its system and developed the bidding proposal, was the only company to submit a bid for the project.
Alley Williams, assistant to the city administrator, said the project should begin in September. Once complete, staff members will begin working on the second phase of the upgrade, installing equipment to livestream City Council and Planning Commission meetings over the Internet.
The council also voted 8-1 to increase the city fine for seat belt violations from $10 to $30. The change was made to comply with a new state law. The extra $20 will go to a state fund that pays for education efforts encouraging seat belt use by children. Morehead voted against the measure.
Council members also agreed to ask an appointed citizen environmental committee to consider whether the city should participate in the Mayors Climate Network, a group of more than 300 U.S. mayors expressing support for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. The city would not be financially obligated to the network but would establish an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in the community, set short- and long-term goals for reducing those emissions and develop an overall climate action plan.
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