Detroit Council won’t vote on pay raise
Detroit — City Council members aren’t planning to vote down a recommended pay raise, but some said Tuesday that they don’t intend to keep the extra money.
The council has a Wednesday deadline to reject a salary increase recommended last month by Detroit’s Elected Officials Compensation Commission.
The March 30 decision allowed the council a 30-day window to reject the pay bump for members and the city clerk by a two-thirds vote or it would become effective. The 2.5 percent increase officially kicks in July 1, 2016.
The prospect of raises — just months after Detroit emerged from the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy — met opposition from some residents, activists and retirees.
Councilman Scott Benson and President Brenda Jones, who each sit on one of the city’s two pension boards, have said they support the increase. The pair have also been working on a mechanism that would allow employees, residents and others to donate to a yet-to-be-established charitable fund to bolster retiree pensions and health care.
Other council members, including Councilman Gabe Leland and Mary Sheffield, said Tuesday that they plan to contribute to that fund when it is established.
Member Raquel Cataneda-Lopez said the council’s work is “deserving of a raise,” but she will dedicate hers to a charity or educational institution.
“Sometimes the residents of the city of Detroit just want their elected officials to feel like we’re in this together,” Sheffield said, adding if the matter had come up for a vote, she would have voted no. “For me, it’s about standing in solidarity with the retirees.”
Added Leland: “The only interest group that came to me and voiced concerns is the pensioners and that’s where my pay is going to go.”
But member James Tate had a different take.
“We’re talking $18,000 total (among council members) out of a $1 billion budget. At some point, we’ve got to move on and focus on the big things,” he said, adding he did not advocate for the salary restoration. “I’ve earned it. This is a job and I take it very seriously.”
Jones and Winfrey previously addressed the compensation board, saying they believe a pay adjustment was justified. The commission noted it did not receive any comments on the matter from the mayor, other council members or the council as a body.
Mayor Mike Duggan did not ask for an increase and was not included in the recommendation.
Jones did not comment on Tuesday, but previously told the commission that her workdays often exceed 12 hours, the council hasn‘t had a raise since 2001 and the panel took a voluntary 10 percent pay reduction in 2010.
When implemented, the increase will bring Jones’ annual salary to $82,776, and $78,761 per year for the other council members and Clerk Janice Winfrey.
Samuel Buzz Thomas, who chaired the compensation commission, has said the group reached the conclusion that salary increases for the city’s elected officials should not be greater than those provided for other city employees in Detroit’s bankruptcy plan of adjustment. Detroit has a four-year budget plan that runs through 2019.
The salaries of Detroit’s elected officials were last increased by a city compensation commission in 2001-02.
The compensation commission convenes in odd years, but did not meet in 2013. In 2011, it did meet but recommended no changes.
The compensation commission didn't act beyond the 2016-17 fiscal year. Any changes for 2018-19 will be addressed by the next compensation commission.