City-appointed group recommends increasing size, pay for Raleigh council

Wake County News

The Raleigh skyline bathed in early morning light (SkyEye 17/CBS 17)

RALEIGH, N.C (WNCN) – In January last year, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin asked city staff to look at potentially changing the way the city council was structured.

The city-appointed study group was tasked with considering the following:

  1. Should Council change the current terms of office from two-years to four-years? Should those terms be staggered?
  2. Should councilmembers be better compensated to attract more applicants?
  3. Should the size of the Council change based on increased population?
  4. Development of a set of proposals to increase voter information, engagement and turnout in municipal elections.

The study group has now finalized their recommendations and will present their findings to the council next week.

Changing terms of office

The group has recommended moving from a two-year to a four-year term. In its report, it said extending the terms would allow council members to “better manage the complexities of governing Raleigh”. The group added that the current terms are too short because it can often take more than a year for an ordinance or infrastructure plan to take effect from start to finish.

The group said in their report, “Governing effectively through this complexity demands a level of persistent attention and strategic focus that is not achievable on 2-year election cycles dominated by localized issues and relentless pressure to campaign and fundraise.”

This recommendation also comes with the suggestion those terms be staggered to avoid an entire council being defeated in one election. The group noted staggered terms would give the city more “political stability”.

Mayor and City Council compensation

The report recommended increasing compensation for the mayor and city council members to attract a wider pool of applicants to city positions. The report noted emails and social media have resulted in citizens demanding more from elected officials. The report said more of a time commitment should come with more money.

If approved, total compensation for the mayor would be increased from $27,550 to $45,911. Total compensation for city councilors would increase from $19,725 to $37,249.

Compensation for the Mayor

PROPOSEDCURRENT
Annual Stipend$36,511$24,550
Annual Expense Allowance$6,000$1,200
Annual Car Allowance$2,400$1,800
Annual Technology Allowance$1,000 0
TOTAL$45,911$27, 550

Compensation for the City Councilors

PROPOSEDCURRENT
Annual Stipend$29,848$18,021
Annual Expense Allowance$4,0000
Annual Car Allowance$2,400$1,200
Annual Technology Allowance$1,000 $504
TOTAL$37,248$19,725

Moving election years

The report has recommended city council elections be moved to even years for a larger voter turnout. The study group said they compared voter turnout in odd versus even years and found more people came out to vote during even years.

Voter engagement program

The study group determined that the city needs educated voters as much as it needs a large pool of voters. It recommended the city shift some dollars over to a voter engagement program. That program could include a voter resource guide online, a Twitter account to reach people through social media and using the city newsletters to point voters to important election information.

Increasing the size of City Council

Along with increasing stipends, the report also recommended increasing the council size from eight to nine people. The report noted there is no clear rhyme or reason that other cities use to make their decisions about council size.

In the report the group said they “focused on striking the proper balance between ensuring that City Council remains responsive to the needs of current citizens, while acting strategically in making policy decisions shaping Raleigh’s future.”

The creation of a new district would also be created if the recommendation is adopted.

Click here to read the report yourself.

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