Most members of the D.C. Council are set to get raises this year thanks to a little-known law that has so far cost city taxpayers more than $1 million, The Washington Examiner has learned.
Eight of the 12 council members will get an additional $2,802 from their $125,583 annual salary -- a 2.2 percent cost-of-living raise this year that's mandated by a law passed in 2006, according to the Office of the Secretary. The office said Council Chairman Kwame Brown, Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh and at-large members Michael Brown and David Catania are the only members who declined their raise this year.
Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells said he accepted his raise because the full council declined a cost-of-living increase for the last two years.
|Council salaries in other cities|
|City||Population||Council member||Council president/chair|
|Austin, Texas||790,390||$62,795||$73,944 (mayor)|
|Source: D.C. Office of Secretary, PhiladelphiaCBSlocal.com, the Austin Tribune|
"We have not accepted cost of living in a long time [and] my cost of living has increased," Wells said. "And I'm very dependant on this income, I don't take any ... substantial outside income."
Additionally, the 2006 law also calls for the creation of a Mayor and Council Compensation Advisory Commission to submit reports every other year on the "proper compensation" for the mayor and council -- but no such commission has ever existed, according to the Office of Boards and Commissions. The commission was to weigh factors like budget constraints and salary trends for similar positions in its compensation reports.
The law mandating cost-of-living raises for members was introduced by Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans and at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson. Of the three votes against the measure, Kwame Brown is the only member still serving.
"I just didn't feel comfortable giving myself a pay raise when our employees weren't getting a pay raise," Brown told The Washington Examiner on Tuesday.
According to the chief financial officer's estimate in 2006, the compensation increases totaled $1.4 million through 2010. The bill's passage in December 2006 raised council members' salaries in 2007 from $92,530 to $115,000 and the chairman's salary to $190,000. In 2008, cost-of-living increases kicked in and salaries were $125,538 by 2011, for an increase of 36 percent in six years.
The mayor's salary was increased to $200,000 but is not subject to inflation raises. Council raises are not necessarily extended to their staff.
Mendelson on Tuesday said establishing raises based on inflation was "intended to take the politics out of pay adjustments" and that he and other members declined raises while city workers were being laid off or furloughed because of budget constraints.
He added that the "breadth of responsibility" for D.C.'s council far exceeds council responsibilities in other jurisdictions because it functions as a local, city and state legislature.
"There are 13 of us -- not 50 of us," he said.