Prairie Village councilman’s last ditch effort to keep pay for mayor, council out of 2018 budget fails

Eric Mikkelson. File photo.
Eric Mikkelson. File photo.

Prairie Village city councilman Eric Mikkelson on Monday mounted an unsuccessful last ditch effort to keep $63,000 earmarked for compensating the mayor and councilmembers out of the version of the 2018 city budget that will come back to the council for final approval later this summer.

While the inclusion of the funds for mayor and council pay is only preliminary at this point — even if the council votes to approve the budget as published, the council would still have to vote separately to actually authorize the spending of the budgeted money on pay for councilmembers and the mayor — Mikkelson argued the move was premature.

At its meeting earlier this month, the council agreed to include questions about whether the mayor and city council should be compensated as part of a citizen survey it will spend $15,000 to administer sometime next year. To Mikkelson, the idea that money would be budgeted for council and mayor pay before the city had gotten resident feedback through the survey didn’t add up.

“We’ve already signaled what the council’s intentions are before we have the results. We’re allocating $63,000 before we even know what the survey is going to say,” Mikkelson said. “If the survey comes back next year, and let’s assume the questions are perfect, the interpretation is unbiased, and the citizens overwhelmingly want us to pay ourselves, we can do that…But what we shouldn’t do, in my opinion, is take $63,000 from the taxpayers’ pockets now, in 2018, and designate it to pay ourselves.”

But Mikkelson’s attempts to get the council to reconsider the motion approved at the council’s last meeting that advanced the budget with the $63,000 in governing body compensation didn’t get any traction from the councilmembers who had voted for it two weeks before. At one point, Mayor Laura Wassmer admonished Mikkelson for continuing to raise the same points.

“You can vote no if you’d like to vote no,” Wassmer said of the motion to publish the budget. “You’ve had multiple occasions to express your views, and they haven’t changed. So I’d like to move forward.”

Mikkelson voted against the measure, as did councilmembers Jori Nelson and Serena Schermoly, who have also expressed concerns with the idea of budgeting pay for members of the governing body. Nelson pointed out that no other mayors or city councilmembers have received compensation for their work for the city since its founding more than six decades ago. Dan Runion was absent. All other councilmembers voted in favor of publishing the budget.

For a year now, Mikkelson has been a strong critic of efforts that would provide compensation to any sitting member of the governing body before he or she has stood for reelection.