Leyens votes to increase salary to $70,000 a year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

[08/20/02]The matter of the mayor’s pay was revisited Monday with Mayor Laurence Leyens joining Vicksburg’s two aldermen in voting to increase his pay to $70,000.

The move reverses the position Leyens had taken on the issue 10 days earlier and was not on the printed agenda for the meeting. It was added as the last item after all other business was done and Leyens, in office for 13 months, said after the vote he was tired of the whole matter.

“I think it’s more important to separate my personal concerns and this administration’s strategic initiative,” Leyens said.

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In the 2-1 Aug. 9 vote, the city board increased the pay of the aldermen by $10,500 per year from $45,492 to $56,000.

Leyens voted for that plan because it did not include a $13,468-a-year raise for him that had been suggested. He cited phone calls and his campaign statements as reasons.

Under the Aug. 9 vote, the mayor’s salary would have remained at $56,532 until the start of the next administration and then rise to $70,000. The raises approved Monday will go into effect in about 30 days.

During the campaign, Leyens said people who seek public office should accept the current salaries or not run.

“I really wanted to hold myself to my word I gave during the campaign,” Leyens said, but he said about 100 people had called advising him to accept the raise since the Aug. 9 vote.

“I’m touched that people are concerned and, quite frankly, I’m sick of the topic and would like to get on with my work,” he said.

Under projections for the coming year, city spending for employees will be $18.4 million for about 500 people or an average of $37,000 per person.

That average is up significantly due to pay and benefits the administration has added while reducing the number of people on the payroll.

Before the change in the mayor’s pay, the salaries of 11 city employees topped the mayor’s. After the changes, many of them, including the attorneys, police chief and strategic planner, will still be paid more. However, with the vote, it’s no longer true that the aldermen’s salaries will rise above the mayor’s in 2003.

The topic of pay for the three elected officials arose at the Aug. 5 meeting and discussion continued through the week. At one point, Leyens said the mayor’s salary should be $80,000 per year, but the board members had agreed on $70,000. The salary was based in part on the pay for the mayor of Southaven.

In addition to the near-term changes, the amendment to the city ordinance also gives the mayor and aldermen a 5 percent raise next year and at the beginning of the second and third year of each new administration. If unchanged by future boards, the aldermen will be paid $71,472 a year and the mayor $89,340 by 2012.

In other matters Monday, city officials:

After a public hearing, took under advisement expanding the Main Street downtown taxing district to include an additional 80 properties.

Received bids for demolition and site clearing for six months, garbage containers, rubbish collection, and garbage and recycling collection.

Entered a contract with Larry Harris, attorney for the tax increment financing bonds for the Home Depot development through Ergon Properties Inc.

Entered an agreement with Mississippi Home Corporation for home-buyer education services.

Declared six police pistols surplus property and authorized their sale to retired officers.

Approved an amendment to the agreement with Alford Engineering for sewer improvements in the annexed areas in the South Ward.

Adopted an ordinance to create a truck route inside the municipal limits. The ordinance will make it illegal for 18-wheelers to travel through downtown Washington Street except when making a delivery in that area.

Approved demolition of structures or cleaning 37 properties.

Authorized the purchasing director to spend $16,800 for computers for the Vicksburg Fire Department.

The city board will meet again at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall Annex for the public budget hearing.