Council approves raises for Fayetteville aldermen

Outgoing council member Sarah Lewis (right) discusses her reasons on Dec. 18 for sponsoring a proposed increase to aldermen’s annual pay.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville City Council members are now the highest paid aldermen in Washington and Benton counties.

The council unanimously voted last week to increase aldermen’s annual pay from $8,400 to $12,504. It’s the first pay raise aldermen have seen in 14 years.

The raises, which are equal to the average annualized growth rate of the mayor’s salary since 1999, were proposed by three outgoing aldermen – Brenda Boudreaux, Bobby Ferrell and Sarah Lewis.

Lewis said Fayetteville has a very active citizenry with high expectations for council members. A raise, she said, would recognize and compensate for that.

“It’s important that everyone in the community consider running for city council,” said Lewis. “A lack of stipend should not be a barrier. There is a need for people to take vacation or take time away from work to fully achieve the objectives of being on the City Council. If one is not able to support oneself as a result of that loss of work, then that creates a hindrance to being able to serve the community.”

A March 2012 city research report showed that despite being the largest city in Washington and Benton counties, Fayetteville trailed Springdale and Rogers for the amount aldermen are paid annually for their civic service. According the report, Springdale aldermen receive $10,200 per year and Rogers aldermen receive $8,580 per year.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan estimated that during his eight years as a council member, he devoted 30 hours per week to council work.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Brenda Boudreaux receives a plaque from Mayor Jordan recognizing her years of service as a council member.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Besides preparing for weekly council meetings, aldermen also serve on at least two of the five official council committees. 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. Aldermen also frequently attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies and other public functions around town.

Automatic raises going forward

In addition to this particular raise, aldermen pay will also be automatically increased annually in a percentage amount equal to the change – if any – in the mayor’s salary.

“I think over the years, we’ve all thought about trying to bring something like this forward, but it is difficult,” said Boudreaux.

She said an automatic raise in future years is important because it will keep aldermen from having to vote for their own raises, which is part of the reason council members have gone so long without a pay increase.

“That’s how it should’ve been done to begin with,” she said.

The Dec. 18 meeting was the last for Boudreaux, Ferrell and Lewis, who will be replaced in 2013 by incoming aldermen Sarah Marsh, Martin Schoppmeyer and Alan Long, respectively.

Top paid aldermen in Washington and Benton counties (annual)

Fayetteville (pop. 73,580) – $12,504
Springdale (pop. 69,797) – $10,200
Rogers (pop. 55,964) – $8,580
Bentonville (pop. 35,301) – $5,832
Siloam Springs (pop. 15,039) – $5,280

Source: Fayetteville staff research report (PDF)