At first glance, it appears the Kansas City Council will be taking off work 10 weeks over the next year.
That’s not what’s happening, although the council does plan to hold fewer regularly scheduled meetings than in some recent years.
The council is establishing the next 12-month calendar in a measure that calls for canceling the regular committee and legislative meetings for 10 of those weeks.
That doesn’t mean 10 weeks of vacation, said Finance Committee chairman Scott Wagner, who set the schedule after consulting with his colleagues. The Finance Committee endorsed the schedule Wednesday and the full council votes on it Jan. 21.
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“It doesn’t mean we’re not working. We’re just not meeting,” said Wagner, who added that his schedule often is packed with other obligations in weeks when the council doesn’t meet.
The council usually holds most of its committee meetings on Wednesdays and its business and legislative sessions on Thursdays. The plan is to cancel those meetings the weeks of Feb. 8, March 7, May 30, June 27, Aug. 1, Sept. 12, Nov. 14, Nov. 21, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.
Wagner pointed out that the council often cancels as many as nine weeks of meetings in a given year, as it did in 2010, 2014 and 2015. But records show fewer cancellations in other years: five weeks of meetings in 2009, six weeks of meetings in 2012 and seven weeks of meetings in 2011 and 2013.
There is no set time off policy for council members. It technically is a part-time job, although the annual salary is $61,569. Many members treat it as if it is a full-time job.
The council traditionally has taken off the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, although in some years it met on the Monday and Tuesday during Thanksgiving week.
A few years ago, it started scheduling a week in August for family vacations, and Wagner said this year the council also decided to cancel meetings the week of Memorial Day, May 30.
Some additional time off is due to other obligations, said Councilman Jermaine Reed, who serves on the executive board of the National League of Cities. The league will hold its summer policy forum in Kansas City, with tentative dates of June 27-29.
Wagner said other cancellations in February and September are for out-of-town meetings of the Missouri Municipal League.
The Kansas City Council isn’t alone in suspending its meeting schedule throughout the year. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen takes several weeks off in the spring and at Christmas, as well as at least six weeks off in the summer.
One reason for the lengthy summer recess is the board chamber lacks air conditioning. Most aldermen also earn considerably less than Kansas City Council members. Starting salary for St. Louis aldermen is $37,000.