Prairie Village council votes to rescind $63,000 in 2018 budget set aside for possible council, mayor pay

Jori Nelson made the motion to repeal the money set aside for mayor and council pay from the 2018 budget.
Jori Nelson made the motion to repeal the money set aside for mayor and council pay from the 2018 budget.

A group of Prairie Village city councilmembers who have been maneuvering to strike $63,000 from the 2018 budget tentatively earmarked for mayor and council pay found a successful tack on Monday.

With Mayor Laura Wassmer, who has supported the idea of pay for the mayor and council, out of town and absent from the meeting, council president Jori Nelson, who was running Monday’s meeting in Wassmer’s stead, introduced a motion to rescind the money from the budget as published. The money at issue was included in the budget approved by the council at a meeting last month over the objections of Nelson and councilmembers Eric Mikkelson and Serena Schermoly. Though the governing body had committed to holding off on officially approving pay for the council and mayor until it had conducted a resident survey to get feedback on the issue, the dissenting members argued it was premature to set aside the money before they’d gotten the survey results.

“I believe this should be resident-driven, and not council-driven to begin to pay ourselves for the first time in city history,” Nelson said Monday.

Mikkelson has for months now argued that the only proper way to approve pay for the council and mayor was to set a start date after every current member of the governing body had sat for reelection. On Monday, he argued that the inclusion of the $63,000 in the 2018 budget amounted to “procedural taint” and that the funds should be stripped. The initial proposal for council pay floated last year would have provided up to $1,225 for the mayor and $300 for each councilmember every month.

Councilmember Courtney McFadden on Monday spoke in favor keeping the money in the budget, saying that its inclusion was a commitment to debate the merits of council pay at some point in 2018, and nothing more. She also noted that since starting as a member of the council, her views on the idea of council pay had evolved.

“When volunteerism starts bleeding in to being a cost center for your family, it becomes quite hard to get the beauty of volunteerism,” McFadden said, noting that she had to pay for child care on many nights she attends council or committee meetings. “For my family right now, sitting in this bench is a cost line item… Is that what we want to keep doing for our community? Because its going to limit the people who will be willing to run for public office.”

Mikkelson retorted that the city had not had trouble filling open council seats.

“With all due respect, Courtney, I know it’s a cost — it’s a cost for my family too — but that’s what we signed up for,” he said.

Councilmembers Schermoly, Mikkelson, Andrew Wang, Sheila Myers and Dan Runion voted to rescind the money from the published budget. Councilmembers Steve Noll, Brooke Moorhead and McFadden voted to keep the budget as published. Councilmembers Ted Odell and Terrence Gallagher were absent.

Mikkelson then went on to suggest that the $63,000 struck from the budget should be used to reduce the city’s property tax rate by .17 mills. Runion supported that idea, but it did not get additional votes from the council. As such, the $63,000 at question will be moved to the city’s capital improvement projects fund for use on streets or sidewalks.