Council votes itself 88% raise

May 23—HIGH POINT — City Council salaries are proposed to nearly double in High Point's upcoming budget slated to take effect July 1.

The council voted 6-0 on Thursday to raise the annual salary from $10,800 to $20,307 for council members — which would be an 88% raise — and from $15,000 to $26,649 for the mayor, an increase of 77%.

If the raises are approved when the budget is adopted, they would be the first salary adjustments the council has given itself since 2008.

Councilman Chris Williams said Monday he made the motion to raise the salaries because council members' workloads have increased, and he thinks the current pay is too low for many candidates to consider serving.

"I don't think we're there yet, where it would be considered a full-time job, but it's enough hours that would hinder someone who is working 9 to 5," he said.

In addition to Williams, those voting in favor of the raises were council members Michael Holmes, Cyril Jefferson, Britt Moore and Monica Peters.

Mayor Jay Wagner and council members Wesley Hudson and Victor Jones were absent from the vote, which occurred during a budget work session.

The current expense allowance amounts of $250 a month ($3,000 a year) for council members and $350 a month ($4,200 a year) for the mayor would not change.

At the meeting, staff presented requested information showing that High Point council salaries rank 10th out of 12 jurisdictions that were used as comparisons. Among those cited, only Greenville ($8,700) and Concord ($10,649) — both of which are smaller cities than High Point — pay lower council salaries.

Several larger jurisdictions were cited in the comparison, including Greensboro ($25,657), Winston-Salem ($25,700), Durham ($36,608), Guilford County ($31,200) and Forsyth County ($26,494).

When it comes to mayoral salaries, among the localities that were cited, only Greenville pays less ($13,900), while some smaller cities like Asheville pay more ($24,644), as do larger Triad cities, including Greensboro ($33,224).

Williams — who is not running for reelection in this year's municipal races, when all eight council seats and the mayor's position will be on the ballot — said he arrived at the proposed pay raise amounts by averaging what the other 11 jurisdictions pay.

The adjustments would move High Point from 10th to sixth in council salaries and from 11th to seventh in mayor's pay.

During his three terms in office, Williams said, the council has expanded its role with outside nonprofit and economic development organizations.

"There's more work to do," he said, adding that he also took into account rising costs of performing council-related duties, such as gas in traveling to meetings and cellphone usage in conducting business.

"Pretty much, your office is your cellphone. We don't have personal staff, so a lot of the work you do yourself," he said.

Holmes, who is running for reelection to the Ward 6 council seat, said at the meeting Thursday that he thinks the council needs to revisit whether to raise its salaries on a regular basis.

"Because, let's be honest, guys, when people see that we're going to move this much, the question is going to be, 'They're giving themselves a raise.' They're not going to care that it's been 15 years since that happened," he said.

Jones said Monday that he understands the justification for the raises but didn't like the way the issue was handled.

He said he had to leave Thursday's budget session early and did not know the subject was going to be broached.

"The optics of it aren't the best. Something as important as this should have been handled at a regularly scheduled agenda for council," said Jones, who is running for mayor this year. "The downside of increasing salaries is, you're going to recruit people looking for an income, versus people looking to make an impact through public service."