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Aldermen will get 133% salary increase

by Shana Haines
Landmark reporter

Platte City's Board of Aldermen voted in a 133% pay increase for aldermen and an 88% pay increase for the mayor's position at a meeting Tuesday night.

Aldermen first suggested the pay increase at a meeting in February. They finalized the deal Tuesday night by voting in a pay raise that will give aldermen a compensation of $350 per month and the mayor $750 per month. The mayor also gets a $100 per month health insurance compensation.

Currently, aldermen are paid $150 per month. The mayor currently gets $400 per month plus the $100 monthly health insurance compensation.

According to the state constitution, an increase in salary for an elected official cannot go into effect during the official's current term. So each city official will have to wait until the start of the next term to receive the raise.

Aldermen who will be affected soon by the pay increase are Jim Palmer and Lee Roy Van Lew. Also, whoever is elected to fill the seat being vacated by alderman Shelle Browning would benefit from the raise.

During a March 11 meeting, aldermen were quite vocal about the raise, stating they deserved it for the hard work and dedication they do for the city. Aldermen even said they spend personal time dealing with city matters on weekends and occasionally discuss city matters at restaurants.

"I have done some research. It appears to be that it has been 17 years since the board of alderman or mayor have gotten an increase in compensation for the work they have done," Alderman Lee Roy Van Lew said.

Van Lew had suggested the aldermen and mayor positions take what would amount to a four percent per year pay increase since the time of the last raise for aldermen, which came in the mid-1980s. Van Lew's idea would have meant a salary of $300 a month for aldermen and $550 for the mayor. His proposal would amount to a 100% raise for aldermen.

When it came time to vote on the motion to approve the proposed 130% pay increase, Van Lew voted no.

Van Lew said he voted against the hike because he thought it was too high.

"They put it up too high," Van Lew said.

Alderman Bill Knighton, who made no comments about the raise during the March 11 meeting, abstained from voting Tuesday night.

In a phone conversation Wednesday morning, Knighton said he abstained from voting because he felt the amount requested was excessive.

"I didn't feel 100% about the amount being requested. It is my personal feeling to do that (abstain)," Knighton said Wednesday morning.

Prior to abstaining Knighton named results from a survey he conducted of what neighboring towns pay their aldermen and mayor. Knighton said Parkville pays its aldermen $300 per month, Smithville $150 per month, and Kearney $110 per month.

According to Palmer, his constituents are in favor of the pay increase.

"Everyone that has called me has been in favor of us getting a raise. Everyone knows we do a heck of a lot of work," Palmer said.

One person in the audience spoke against the pay hike. Former alderman Pat Wolf read a prepared statement explaining why she was against the pay increases.

"How many gallons of gas does it take to get from one side of the city to the other?" Wolf questioned.

Wolf also said that the salary should not be the reason city officials run for office.

Mayor Dave Brooks became very vocal about the increase.

"I know how much you (aldermen) do. We all know that in the past there was an awful lot less to do than there is now," Brooks said.

Brooks said he and aldermen work very hard at running the city. Brooks added elected officials sometimes use their own vehicles, cell phones and spend a lot of time each month dedicated to the city.

"I am not honking my own horn. I personally know how much I am over there (city hall)," Brooks said.