UPDATED: Aldermen to consider raises for Fayetteville City Council members

From left, Ward 2 aldermen Mark Kinion and Matthew Petty; Mayor Lioneld Jordan; Ward 3 aldermen Justin Tennant and Bobby Ferrell; and Ward 4 alderwomen Rhonda Adams and Sarah Lewis. (Not pictured: Ward 1 alderwomen Adella Gray and Brenda Boudreaux)

Photo by Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Update: The council unanimously approved this item on Dec. 18.

Fayetteville City Council members may soon get a raise for the first time in 14 years.

Three outgoing aldermen – Brenda Boudreaux, Bobby Ferrell and Sarah Lewis – have suggested increasing the pay each council member receives from $700 per month to $1,042 per month. The proposed increase – from $8,400 per year to $12,504 per year – is equal to the average annualized growth rate of the mayor’s salary since 1999.

“Fayetteville council members work very hard and we have a very active citizenry,” said Lewis. “There’s a lot of expectations, and this is really recognizing that.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Brenda Boudreaux and Ward 3 Alderman Mark Kinion look over potential downtown parking deck locations during a public input session held at the Walton Arts Center one afternoon in April.

Photo by Todd Gill

Boudreaux said residents frequently mistake aldermen for city employees who receive benefits similar to a full-time staff member.

“People have called me and asked if I was in my office,” said Boudreaux. “We don’t get offices.”

Lewis said she’s had countless people think she’s a full-time council member.

“So many times I’ve had to explain that I actually have a career,” she said. “We should be able to do both and balance both.”

Besides preparing for weekly council meetings and agenda-setting sessions, aldermen also serve on at least two of the five official council committees – Street Committee, Water & Sewer Committee, Nominating Committee, Ordinance Review Committee and Equipment Committee. Some aldermen also represent the council on other boards like the Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Environmental Action Committee and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. Many times, aldermen can be seen at ribbon-cutting events, public meetings and other functions around town.

Don Marr, a former council member who currently serves as the mayor’s chief of staff, said while it’s difficult for aldermen to vote on increases for themselves, it’s important that they be compensated fairly.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Adella Gray speaks while Mayor Lioneld Jordan listens during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Marion Orton Recycling Center on North Street one morning in October.

Photo by Todd Gill

“You don’t want the people who are eligible to be alderman to only be people who can afford to be away from work to do the job,” said Marr. “People who are running their own businesses, who aren’t retired or who have to take vacation time to get away and do things have a compensation impact. Those people should be eligible to run for council just as those who can financially afford to do so.”

A March 2012 city research report shows that despite being the largest city in Washington and Benton counties, Fayetteville trails Springdale and Rogers for the amount aldermen are paid each month for their civic service. According the report, Springdale aldermen receive $850 per month and Rogers aldermen receive $715 per month.

Aldermen will consider the pay raises during the final meeting of the year on Dec. 18. If approved, aldermen pay would be automatically changed annually in a percentage amount equal to the change – if any – in the mayor’s salary.

The Dec. 18 meeting will be the last for Boudreaux, Ferrell and Lewis, who are being replaced by incoming aldermen Sarah Marsh, Martin Schoppmeyer and Alan Long, respectively.

Top paid aldermen in Washington and Benton counties (monthly)

Springdale (pop. 69,797) – $850
Rogers (pop. 55,964) – $715
Fayetteville (pop. 73,580) – $700
Bentonville (pop. 35,301) – $486
Siloam Springs (pop. 15,039) – $440
Bella Vista* (pop. 26,461) – $420
Tontitown (pop. 2,460) – $400
Lowell* (pop. 7,327) – $250
Gentry* (pop. 3,158) – $210
Bethel Heights* (pop. 2,372) – $150
Gravette (pop. 2,325) – $150
Farmington* (pop. 5,974) – $150

* Only one regular council meeting per month (others have two)
Source: Fayetteville staff research report (PDF)