The price we pay for government
|By Dave Ress, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Few Peninsula-area localities disclose elected officials' pay in budgets, annual financial reports or websites. Hardly any have changed their pay rates or benefits in years.
"It's not something that's at the forefront," said
"I think elected officials generally earn what they are paid, and my sense is that the difference in compensation is generally driven by the more complex job that a city elected official has over a county elected official," said
He doesn't see the difference as coming from different attitudes about politicking and wooing the public, though.
"Cities have more complex public safety, education, and health and welfare issues to deal with. The Code of
Bateman figures he spends 15 to 20 hours a week on council business. In addition to the twice monthly meetings, he sits as the city representative on bodies like the airport commission, and fields scores of emails, phone calls and letters a week from residents who need city services or have questions about city policies.
"When I'm driving down the street and see a power company box with graffiti, I'll stop, take a picture and send it in," he said. "Sometimes, it's like you live this job."
Like many elected officials, Bateman feels a key part of the job is showing up at community events, too.
"I look at it as community service. Instead of something like the
He, too, figures he spends about 15 or 20 hours a week on city business. And he's not doing it for the money.
"I think we're still being paid what was set when we became a city in 1975," he said. That sum:
Cities pay more
Last year, council expenses included an allotment of
The budget figure is less than the state Auditor of Public Accounts reports as legislative spending, a common pattern, in part because
The auditor also requires cities and counties to count fringe benefits for elected body members and their staff, though many localities, like
The Auditor of Public Accounts' approach to calculating council costs puts the bill higher than does the
All in all, the state auditor estimates the council's cost amounts to less than
In contrast, the
Legislators are paid less than council members in
On the Peninsula, only the four
The state auditor's calculation of council costs includes the
But the big reason the bill looks high on a per-resident basis, at
That makes the
"They increased it before I was elected," said Chairman
In addition to
For the county, that move is a three-for, said board chairman <person>Robert Orth.
First, he said, it saves money; second, it moves county staff closer together; and third, the trigger, an offer from an investor to buy the county building, puts property back onto the tax rolls. All that became an option when the school board closed
"It was all a cascade of events," he said.
Ress can be reached by phone at 757-247-4535.
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