By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Starting in May of 2018, alderpersons of the Marshfield Common Council will receive a pay increase. The current council voted for that change on Tuesday night, though every alderperson would have to win re-election to benefit from the pay raise.
The pay increase passed seven to three. Alderpersons Tom Buttke, Ed Wagner, and Alanna Feddick voted against it.
The plan takes the current wage of council members from $4,000 annually to $4,500. The new system will also penalize any council member that misses two or more required meetings in a month — including council; finance, budget, and personnel; or board of public works — $100 for that month.
The city made the change after looking at what other municipalities of comparable size paid their alderpersons. According to city documents, Wisconsin Rapids pays their alderpersons $5,880 per year, Stevens Point $5,300, Wausau $5,355, and Chippewa Falls $3,000.
Late last year the council deadlocked in a vote that would have raised the council’s pay to $5,100 per year, and Mayor Chris Meyer cast the tiebreaking vote in opposition. The issue then came back to the council Tuesday night with a smaller pay raise proposed.
A spirited discussion
Council members expressed strong opinions on both sides of the issue Tuesday night. Buttke voted against the pay raise proposal, saying he wanted a more merit-based system.
“It shouldn’t be that if you miss two meetings (council members are docked pay). If you miss any meetings, you should not get paid for those meetings,” Buttke said.
Feddick also opposed the measure though for different reasons than Buttke. She said she was concerned about the public perception of a raise and added that money is not the reason she serves on the council, a sentiment many council members expressed.
“Young people aren’t on this council because (of) the pay. There’s no way,” Feddick said. “We do it not to gain a financial reward but really to impact our community.”
Alderman Rich Reinart agreed that he and others do not serve on the council for money but said that the pay increase would show the community and potential future elected officials that the city values public service.
“What are we telling people in the community, prospective people that maybe would want to be on council — that, … you know what, 18 years goes by, 20 years (since the last council pay raise)? ‘We don’t really appreciate or want people, you know, on the council,’” Reinart said. “I just think it sends the wrong message.”
The council’s pay was last increased in 2000, said City Administrator Steve Barg.
Alderman Gordy Earll echoed Reinart’s sentiments, adding that the pay raise was not about the current council but rather upcoming ones and showing future aldermen that their contributions would be appreciated.
“What are we saying here, that other communities feel their council is worth more money than us, that we’re not doing our job? What is it? I mean, I don’t understand that,” Earll said. “I mean, my goodness, the time we put in on committee meetings, we could work at McDonald’s and make twice the money we’re making on this commission. We’re doing this for the community.”