A line item buried in the Town of Selma’s budget will have a big impact on what taxpayers pay the mayor and 4 members of the city council.
With a newly adopted budget that takes effect this Friday, Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver will receive a 200 percent pay increase and all four town board members a 167 percent monthly salary increase.
Officials justifying the increase by saying they will no longer be offered free healthcare by the town, but sources tell WTSB News only one of the 5 elected members had previously taken advantage of the free health care offer.
Starting July 1st, Mayor Oliver’s salary will increase from $2,400 a year to $7,200 a year. Council members will be paid $4,800, up from $1,800.
Mayor Oliver said a salary and compensation study showed the pay of elected officials in Selma was lower than other towns their size, while being high on benefits. She said the increase in salaries and a drop in the healthcare will “correct that imbalance.”
“The new salaries better acknowledge the hours and effort spent in performing the duties of these positions and, at the same time, still reflect that they are service positions. During my tenure as Mayor, we have added Work Sessions to allow us to better research Council Agenda items and to explore new ideas regarding how to move Selma forward. The Mayor and Council do much work outside of our scheduled public meetings. They are on call 24-7 for our citizens and businesses. It is fair to have compensation that acknowledges the commitment required to hold an elected office.”
The mayor and four council members will continue to receive a life insurance policy paid for by the Town not included in their salary package.
Oliver said citizens shouldn’t expect to see another salary increase anytime soon. “Salary changes for elected officials are not made frequently. The current salary may stand unchanged for decades.”
Eric Jackson a former candidate for the Selma Town Council says he supports the higher salaries. “For what they do for the people, I’m fine with a modest pay increase. When you go into public service you are not in it for the money. They really go above and beyond.”
Jackson admitted that some people will say Selma’s elected leaders are living off the taxpayers but he said it was such a small amount of the budget it should not be criticized.
Selma Officials Salaries Now Surpass Smithfield
When the higher salaries for Selma town leaders take effect this Friday, July 1st, they will surpass the Town of Smithfield, and what their elected leaders are paid. Members of the Smithfield Town Council – who represent 11,600 residents nearly double the population of Selma’s 6,300 residents – are paid $4,000 a year and the mayor $6,000 per year. Any Smithfield official elected on or before 2005 is offered free health insurance. The only Smithfield official eligible is Mayor Andy Moore but he has voluntarily elected not to receive the health care coverage. Unlike Selma, Smithfield’s elected officials did not increase their salaries this year.
Selma Electric, Sewer Fees Increasing
The $19.5 million budget, up from $18.5 million this fiscal year, keeps the 51 cents property tax rate unchanged. Sewer fees will jump by 3 percent. Electric rates which were cut last year will be going back up 2 percent. Water rates and garbage fees will remain unchanged for now.
Town Manager Jon Barlow said the budget is higher because of a sewer improvement project on Ricks Road. Funding is also included for two new police cars and a new yard debris grapple truck.
Three new employees will also be added: a full-time fireman, one position in the electric department and a new employee in the planning department.
Barlow called the budget challenging. “Each year they are different and each year they have their own set of issues. It is always a challenge to provide good services citizens expect and deserve but balance that out with responsible cost. There is a lot going on. I think we have a pretty good budget to keep that going.”