Put Pay Increase Plan Before Voters

Wheeling’s mayor and City Council members are paid according to a formula set in 1992, when the municipal charter was changed by a vote of the people. Council members receive $8,500 a year. The mayor gets $11,300.

Obviously, inflation has made the purchasing power of those amounts much less than it was 26 years ago. Council members want to do something about that.

Pay raises that would take council members to $15,000 a year and the mayor to about $20,000 are being proposed. Current holders of the posts would not benefit unless they are re-elected.

Make no mistake about it: Mayor Glenn Elliott’s and council members’ jobs technically are part-time, but they put in far more hours than the number of meetings they attend might seem to indicate. Some work quite hard at their jobs.

Still, the pay raises being contemplated may be a bit jarring to some Wheeling residents, even though the amounts were arrived at by taking the 1992 figures and adjusting for inflation since then.

We have been told that though council may be able to approve the raises on its own, members desire a vote of the people be held. That is the correct attitude, and a referendum should be pursued.

Even though the amount of money involved is relatively small — about $47,000 a year — in the context of the municipal budget, pay raises for public officials should be put before voters, when at all possible. Wheeling residents pay the bills, after all. The decision ought to be up to them.