Wheeling Voters Will Decide on City Council Pay Raises

Photo by Casey Junkins Wheeling Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday listens as City Manager Robert Herron makes a point during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

WHEELING — At least two residents oppose doubling the salaries for mayor and members of Wheeling City Council: Jefferson Avenue’s George Jones and Councilman Dave Palmer.

Palmer, a retired Wheeling firefighter, voted “no” during the Tuesday special council meeting on the measure to increase the salaries for future mayors and members of council. Although council passed the provision by a vote of 6-1, the written objection by Jones ensures the issue will appear before city voters on the May 8 primary election ballot.

According to the 1992 City Charter, the pay for the position of mayor is set at $11,300, while the pay for a city council member is $8,500. The new amounts would be approximately $20,000 and $15,000 per year, respectively, based on the rate of inflation from 1992-2020.

Council held a public hearing prior to the Tuesday vote, but no one came to speak. After the vote, Palmer said the concept is not fair to city firefighters, police officers, water and sewer workers, along with numerous other employees.

“I didn’t like the way the ordinance was drafted on our percentage throughout the years. Our other employees are not entitled to that. I don’t know that we’re entitled to that,” Palmer said.

The ordinance states the inflation increase from 1992-2020 should not “exceed 3 percent” per year. Palmer said he disagreed with Mayor Glenn Elliott and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman on the percentage.

“I thought that we could agree on a number,” Palmer added. “But, the mayor and vice mayor decided to go with this agenda, so, I don’t really agree with it.”

Those who voted for the measure emphasized after the meeting they will never see the pay increases unless voters re-elect them in 2020.

“This is a great opportunity for a community discussion about the value of public service,” Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said.

“Ultimately, these jobs should attract the best and the brightest candidates,” Thalman said. “This should help ensure that.”

Elliott was an underclassman at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He said this change was always going to have to happen at some point.

“I understand why prior councils chose not to do it — because of the public backlash,” Elliott said.

“I don’t envision this as a pay raise,” he continued. “We felt it was important for our next council to get a proper compensation package.”

Because Jones filed a formal objection against the plan, this allows the matter to go before voters on May 8. Elliott said a simple majority vote is required for approval.

“It’s now in the voters’ hands,” Elliott added.

The next council meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the first floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.