PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The hotly contested races for state courts, counties, schools and municipal offices aren’t the only items on Tuesday’s ballot.
As KDKA-TV political editor Jon Delano reports, Allegheny County voters have a referendum question that would change how, but not how much, county council members are paid.
It’s a part-time job that has never paid well. County council members earn the equivalent of $210 per week in a stipend that is distributed based on meeting attendance, rather than as a salary like other county officials.
“One of the recommendations of the Government Review Commission was to move from a stipend to a salary, and the reason was for us to be paid on a regular basis,” said Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey .
On Election Day, Allegheny County voters will be asked to vote yes or no on a question that will maintain the current salary, but as a salary and not a stipend, with a salary increase every five years that does not can exceed five percent.
Macey says currently, council members receive a full stipend for attending 20 of the 24 council meetings and receive nothing for attending committee meetings or their work in the community.
“Council meetings last on average between 20 minutes and an hour,” Macey said. “Most of our work is done in the community, attending different events, attending committee meetings downtown. We put a lot of work into it. It’s a part-time job that comes with responsibilities at full-time.”
A yes vote, Macey said, doesn’t change their overall salary of $10,939, but he said it would be paid over 26 pay periods, rather than after each council meeting.
“This is not a pay increase,” he said. “This is not a political maneuver. This is simply a way for us to get paid every two weeks like the rest of Allegheny County employees.”
Macey says council members from both parties voted to put this change on the ballot, but at least one is calling for a no vote.
“I really hope everyone votes no in this referendum. Personally, I will,” said Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethan Hallam.
Hallam says the change could encourage council members not to attend their meetings.
“It’s all changing from a per-meeting stipend, where if you don’t attend the meeting you don’t get paid, to a salary where a council member could be elected to a four-year term and not showing up to a single council meeting or doing a single ounce of work while receiving their entire taxpayer-funded salary,” Hallam said.
Macey says there is no evidence of council members skipping meetings and that this is simply an accounting correction. Voters will decide on Tuesday.