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Friday, November 21, 2014

City Council members receive stipend

A plan suggested three years ago is now taking effect.

April 23, 2014

City council members will now be paid a small yearly stipend in exchange for their work. Previously, the members had been paid nothing.

The job has become more and more extensive as Columbia grows, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said.

“I think as time goes on, council is going to have more and more things they have to do,” Nauser said. “I’ve been on the council seven years and my workload has increased. My constituents and meeting schedules with individuals has doubled at least. I can see that trend continuing.”

The idea was proposed three years ago, but voters only implemented the change this year. Ward representatives will receive $6,000 per year while Mayor Bob McDavid will receive $9,000 per year. The stipends will be adjusted every three years to account for cost of living increases, according to city code.

The job requires a lot of work, especially for those with full-time jobs, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.

“What it will do, in terms of how much you get paid per hour, it’s very little,” Hoppe said. “You’re doing 30 to 40 hours of work per week, so what it really does is help a little bit in terms of expenses, which would be phone, printing, going to a lot of different events in the community that often you have to pay to attend for dinners, and things like that. If people have young kids, then they’d have to pay for babysitters.”

Nauser said serving on City Council can often come at a cost.

“(The stipend) just offsets some of the costs we acquire like gas, wear and tear on our vehicles and a lot of times you have to meet people and meet for coffee,” Nauser said.

This new stipend will hopefully open the council up to more diverse members, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said.

“I think that having a payment will encourage people to consider it more of a paid work, people that wouldn’t even be able to consider running for council and having to put all of this additional time into the council system on top of having a paid job,” Thomas said. “I am hopeful this change will encourage a more diverse council in the future that fully represents all the people of Columbia, not just those who are retired or who have very comfortable financial situations that allow them not to necessarily work and put all this time in.”

Thomas said he expects current council members to put in about the same amount of work as they did before they received the stipend.

“I don’t think it’ll make much difference to those of us on the council right now,” Thomas said. “I think we pretty much respond to everything that we need to do to prepare for meetings, to meet with constituents, to research the issue, but that’s our own sort of specific ideas.”

Hoppe said that while the stipend is helpful, no one on the council serves for the money.

“I don’t think it will affect the quality of what people will do at all,” Hoppe said. “I guess my point is that if you want to do it for the money, you’ll probably be better off doing something else.”

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