Above, left to right: Mayor Mark Meadows and Councilmembers Ruth Beier, Aaron Stephens, Shanna Draheim, and Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann. Photo courtesy City of East Lansing.
The East Lansing Elected Officers Compensation Commission voted on December 5, 2017, to hold the pay of City Councilmembers steady, with no raise. According to City Clerk Marie Wicks, “They did so reluctantly because of the hard work [Council] put in but felt that, in light of current fiscal realities, they could not proceed with any pay increases.”
Four Councilmembers are currently paid about $8,200 per year, with the fifth member, the Mayor, paid a total of about $9,600 per year. (The five members of Council elect the Mayor from among them.) Mark Meadows is currently Mayor, and the seated Council also includes Erik Altmann, Ruth Beier, Shanna Draheim, and Aaron Stephens.
The Compensation Commission meets every two years, normally in the month before an odd-year November election for City Council. This year the Commission met on December 5, a month after the election, which changes the dynamic because it means that the Commission members are aware who has been elected to Council and who has been elected Mayor for the next two years.
The current members of the Compensation Commission are Jennifer Arbogast, Michael Benedict, Flemming Mathiasen, Ryan Mellott, La Tricia Perry, Nancy Schertzing, and Maria Zdybel. Benedict was absent from the December 5 meeting, and Arbogast was elected Chair.
At the meeting, Wicks presented information from other Michigan municipalities to provide comparison data with regard to compensation of mayor and council members. Cities are chosen for comparison on the basis of having similar negotiation systems (in terms of unions) for compensation of municipal employees. The chart Wicks presented is shown here:
At the December 5 meeting, Schertzing moved to “hold the line” on salaries because of the fiscal problems the City is facing. She named the failure of the income tax as adding financial stress. Zdybel seconded the motion.
Mellott noted that the salaries are low enough that it seems unlikely anyone on Council is a “flight risk” if she or he is not awarded a higher salary.
Mathiasen said that he thought Mayor Meadows’ salary should be increased because he is “at every event” and does a substantial amount of work for the City. Other Commission members noted that none of the salaries are commensurate with the level of work provided by members of East Lansing Council.
Ordinarily the decision of the Compensation Commission goes to City Council which can reject the decision if two-thirds or more of Councilmembers vote to reject. In that case, existing salary prevails. Since existing salary is prevailing by virtue of the decision of the Commission this year, there will be no reason for Council to vote on the decision.
According to Wicks, “In addition to their pay, the mayor and members of Council are provided free parking at meters. They also occasionally attend Michigan Municipal League and National League of Cities Conferences to engage in education and advocacy,” and have their expenses for such conferences paid by the City.