Chamber survey results: Don’t raise city officials’ pay

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 9, 2002

[04/09/02}More than half the Chamber of Commerce members who responded to a poll oppose the idea of raises for Vicksburg’s mayor and two aldermen.

On Monday, as the chamber’s directors were given the results of the survey two weeks ago, they chose to take no action.

Chamber officials said 109, or 60 percent, of the 181 members who responded said no. The chamber has 460 members, all of whom were mailed questionnaires. Most of the members are professionals or principles in local retail, wholesale or industrial firms.

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The poll results are advisory only. Under the city charter, city board members set their own compensation but must do so in open session and on the record.

The specific question was whether chamber members would support raising the mayor’s salary about $25,000 a year and the aldermen’s about $21,000 a year.

“This strikes me as a very sensitive issue,” said board member Douglas J. Kamien with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when the survey results were presented. “And I believe we should simply leave it alone.”

About 34 percent voted to support the raises, but many of those also wrote in the comment section that they felt the pay suggested was too high.

The increases would have moved the mayor’s salary from $56,532 to $86,000 and the two aldermen’s from $45,490 to $68,000.

“I support a pay raise; however, a fair and reasonable raise,” one respondent wrote. “These recommendations are astronomical.”

Many others also suggested the raises should not go into effect until after the end of the current administration’s term in 2005.

When the city’s elected officials learned of the chamber survey, all three indicated they might support giving themselves raises if the poll indicated the public was in favor of the idea.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Monday night after the chamber meeting that the city board would put the issue aside for now.

“It’s not a pressing issue for us right now,” Leyens said. “We’ve really never had a conversation about it.”

Leyens was not present at the meeting and neither were North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young or South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

At one time, the mayor’s pay was the highest of any city employee. However, there are now several municipal employees who are paid $30,000 or more per year more than the mayor.

Vicksburg has about 500 employees and a $16 million payroll, both among the largest in the region except for major cities such as Memphis, Jackson and New Orleans.

The chamber board also voted against moving the chamber office to downtown, another question on the survey to its members. About 66 percent of those who responded said they were not in favor of moving the office from Mission 66.