Thursday, March 12, 2009
Byhalia aldermen reduce salaries
By SUE WATSON
The Byhalia Board of Aldermen, during its February 17 meeting, passed motions to reduce the salaries of the mayor and aldermen effective July 1.
The board also passed motions to seek an increase of $1 a month on customer’s water bills and to ask the Mississippi Legislature for a 2 percent tourism sales tax levy.
The motion to reduce the mayor’s salary, made by alderman Rick DeBardeleben and seconded by alderman Richard Minor, passed 4-1, with alderman Bob Carrington casting the only opposing vote. The current salary for the mayor is $40,000 a year and will be decreased by 25 percent to $30,000 a year beginning with the next mayoral term.
DeBardeleben then motioned to reduce the aldermen’s salaries by 20 percent and his motion was seconded by alderman Bob Carrington, but failed 2-3. A subsequent motion to reduce the aldermen’s salary by 10 percent, proffered by Mike Hamblin, passed unanimously. Aldermen are currently paid $500 monthly and beginning July 1 an alderman’s salary will be $450 a month.
Mayor Scooter Dempsey said he and the board of aldermen decided to start at the top and come down in terms of salary reductions. No pay reductions are in order for anyone else, he said.
“We are looking for ways to cut our spending,” he said. “Our budget is fine but we don't want to be reckless. We want to get into a conservative mode and stay there.”
DeBardeleben elaborated in a separate interview, saying the mayor’s position is not designated as full- or part-time, but is salaried near to a full-time position.
“While I am aware that the mayor is basically on call 24/7, he does not work a 40-hour week per se for the town,” he said. “After doing a little research, I learned that Byhalia’s mayor is the highest paid for a town our size. I felt a reduction was warranted. Also, the aldermen are paid significantly more than the aldermen of almost all towns our size.”
Alderman Phil Malone, who is running unopposed for mayor this year, said the reductions in the salaries of the mayor and aldermen had been discussed several times in the past.
“So we decided to start with the new term, July 1,” he said.
Another motion that would require the mayor to schedule set office hours was made by DeBardeleben and seconded by Mike Hamblin. The motion failed 2-3 with Carrington, Minor and alderman Phil Malone opposing the measure.
Debardeleben said in his short time in office as alderman he has heard time and again from the public, "I don't have a clue when the mayor is in the office and the people in town hall can’t tell me when he will be there. I proposed the mayor be required to schedule 10 hours a week that he would be in the office. The schedule could be set by the mayor in a manner that would best fit in with everything else he or she might have scheduled.”
He said if the 10-hours were scheduled, the town clerks would be able to provide specific times to a person so they could make an appointment with the mayor.
“This is in no way an indictment on the current mayor or his performance,” DeBardeleben said. “I just feel, as well as many of the citizens, that the mayor's presence in the office on a regular basis would be helpful. “
The board voted unanimously to send a resolution to Sen. Bill Stone and Rep. Tommy Woods to ask for local and private legislation that will allow the city of Byhalia to levy a 2 percent tourism tax.
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