Starting Jan. 1, serving on the College Park City Council will be a little more rewarding.
The City Council voted 5-2 on Oct. 8 to increase council members’ pay from $5,000 annually to $7,000 with the mayor’s pay rising from $7,500 to $10,500.
Council members last voted to increase their salary by $600 in 2007.
Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2), who is not seeking re-election, proposed the salary increase.
Catlin said he would have retired from the council in 2011, but no one was willing to take his place, and he did not wish to leave his ward with only one representative. College Park’s four districts have two council members each.
“We do have two contested ward races, but neither one is contested by long-term residents. They’ve both contested by student candidates,” Catlin said. “I believe we need to do something to encourage more people to run, or if they’re already in office, to stay in office.”
Councilman Marcus Afzali (Dist. 4), who is also not seeking re-election agreed on the difficulties of securing candidates.
“Oftentimes the city has had to literally beg people to run for council,” he said.
Councilman Fazlul Kabir (Dist. 3) proposed an amendment to Catlin’s resolution that would have reduced the increase to 10 percent, but his amendment was rejected by a 5-2 vote.
“... I think a 40 percent hike is too much, especially in a year when we raised residents’ taxes,” he said. “It just doesn’t feel right. Doesn’t feel good. I think the reasonable amount is 10 percent.”
Mary Cook, a north College Park resident and former council member, said she considered a 10 percent increase “very reasonable.”
“I know how much work being on the council is,” Cook said. “I’m willing to give you 10 percent out of my own pocket, but not 40 percent.”
Cook suggested that in the future, mayor and council pay increases should be put to a referendum vote.
Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1) said the increase would help promote a healthier democracy in College Park.
“If we say that we shouldn’t increase the salary because people who do this job ... are generally able to support themselves, with benefits, with the jobs they already have, then we’re basically shutting the door on people who don’t have that kind of job, who don’t earn that kind of money,” Wojahn said.
Resident Margaret Kane said she felt the pay increase could encourage more people to run.
“I think this increase could encourage people who want to run who need a second job, but might not need a second job with this small supplement to their income.”
Resident, Tim Miller, spoke out against the increase, accusing the council of fiscal irresponsibility, raising taxes while giving out pay increases to employees and now itself.
“The mayor and certain members of the City Council are taking this city straight into bankruptcy within 15 to 20 years from now,” Miller said.
Kabir and Councilwoman Denise Mitchell (Dist. 4) cast the two ‘nay’ votes to the 40 percent increase. Councilman Monroe Dennis (Dist. 2) was absent.