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City Council Rejects Proposal To Increase Members' Salaries

City of Charlotte
Council member Braxton Winston proposed increasing council member pay at Wednesday's budget meeting.

The Charlotte City Council on Thursday rejected a proposal by Democratic council member Braxton Winston to increase the compensation of council members.

Council members are paid about $32,700 a year. That includes a vehicle allowance, and a technology and expense allowance.

Winston, an at-large council member in his first term, said council members should be paid the same as Mecklenburg County commissioners, who are paid about $44,000 a year. Commissioners raised their pay in 2016, from about $30,000 a year.

"The salary structure as it stands right now, for city council members and policymakers, only makes sense for people to do this if they already have accumulated wealth or if you don’t have a family to support," Winston said.

Winston's proposal would have cost the city $112,000 a year.

Julie Eiselt, a Democrat, said she supports the idea of higher pay, but she said Winston should have brought up the idea of higher salaries sooner.  Winston floated the proposal at Wednesday's budget meeting.

"I support council salary increases - it’s a ridiculous amount of money," Eiselt said. "I’ve calculated my income at $6.18 an hour. So it’s not that I don’t support it, but I’ve never gotten a call from a colleague saying can we work on this and can we get six votes for this. I think that’s a piece that’s missing."

During Wednesday's budget meeting, council member LaWana Mayfield suggested the higher pay could come from a police training program. Winston said Thursday that was not his idea, and he didn't support that proposal.

Winston also supports moving from two-year to four-year terms. Several council members said they supported the idea, but a majority then voted against placing the idea on the ballot for voters to decide in a referendum.

The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year increases the city's general fund by nearly 5 percent. The property tax rate would be "revenue-neutral," meaning the city would generate about the same amount of money from property taxes as it did a year ago.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.