EDITORIAL: Are we getting what we’re paying for?
Christmas bonus anyone?
For two City Council members, a Monday decision by the Council to provide some odd form of back pay has resulted in a holiday chunk of change — at taxpayers’ expense, of course.
Two Council members are now receiving a monthly $1,000 paycheck for their service following the Council’s decision back with the 2019 budget to provide salaries for elected officials.
Running unopposed, both Kathy Canady and Tony DeYoung were in line to pick up the new salary following the election.
But Monday, the Council decided to sweeten the pot by approving back pay for the pair to May because the election had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unclear who asked that this item be brought to the Council. On the agenda it had Finance Director Becky Wilkins name on it, but that does not mean she is the one who was seeking a decision.
When the Council voted, both Canady and DeYoung abstained, but it was highly unlikely the other three Council members would vote the measure down, so it appeared as a hollow gesture.
Either could have spoken up on why the back pay was deserved, or maybe have declined it in consideration of how the pandemic has impacted all of the community.
They did not.
Do Council members who have never been paid deserve back pay related to the salaries they awarded themselves simply because a pandemic, which has put a strain on all of us, forced them to wait six more months?
The Independent has opposed the salaries since the idea was first floated in August 2019 to reward Council members for their service with a $12,000 annual salary and the Mayor with $40,000. Liberty Hill is not a City at this time that should be compensating Council members or its Mayor, and it certainly shouldn’t be handing out $6,000 lump-sum checks to two of them because of a delay in the election calendar.
How many people in our community are going to see back pay for wages lost due to a cut in hours, or a layoff attributed to COVID-19? How many will not see raises in 2020 because of the toll the pandemic has taken on local businesses?
It must be nice to be able to look out for yourselves with someone else’s money while others make due in trying times.
It is true, in our type City, according to state law, the Council can handle compensation for its members as it sees fit. It seems it’s a good gig if you can get it. But have our Council members earned this?
That back pay will cover a span of time when this Council passed a budget 33 percent higher than the previous year. It was a time when they refused to act on allegations against former Mayor Rick Hall. It covers a period when the City was sued by one fired employee and terminated three others. In this time the Council approved nearly $3 million in additional spending on the wastewater plant expansion after signing off on dramatic changes that seem to now be in question as they face a lawsuit. It also struggled through accounting for capital projects that all seemed to run out of funds.
These issues certainly don’t fall on these two officials alone, but the fact they are now being paid for their participation in these decisions magnifies the issue.
The question for taxpayers is how much of your money should be going into the pockets of elected politicians and is it truly being earned?