In back-to-back meetings Tuesday, Madison’s Committee of the Whole and Common Council weighed the feasibility of increasing council member salaries and raising funds for tree maintenance as part of the 2015 budget.
Currently, the proposed budget includes $8,260 per alder salary. Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, pushed for amending this stipulation to add $200 per alder, which she said would be “symbolic” of the time requirements for the job.
“The aldermanic salaries is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time,” Rummel said. “It’s really a part time job that’s paid [for] like a high school babysitter.”
Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, called the question of salaries an “equity issue” and that increases would allow more economically disadvantaged candidates to serve on the Council. However, this prediction was not universally embraced.
“I’m really sort of wrapping my head around how we can provide better services to our constituents through being a stronger council,” Ald. Larry Palm, District 12, said. “If you raise it to a full time salary, this becomes then a job that people are really seeking … I think elections will become that much more challenging.”
Although there is a Dec. 1 deadline for proposed salaries changes, Council President Chris Schmidt, District 11, did not envision salary increases taking effect in the near future.
While members of the Committee did not reach a consensus on increasing salaries, Common Council agreed to increase funds for urban forestry, reversing their previous stance, after a similarly contentious debate regarding the threat of the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) and who would pay the fee for their maintenance and removal.
“We have luxury housing in towers that have very little street frontage, but the folks there are going to pay a lot less [than those living in moderate priced housing] that have a lot of street frontage,” Ald. Lisa Subeck, District 1, said.
However, the necessity of the funding ultimately outweighed members’ concerns regarding the price tag attached.
“We can create a mechanism to be able to save our trees [from the EAB],” Ald. Maurice Cheeks, District 10, said. “There are so many things we can’t do but we can do this.”