Waste Watchers: Taxpayers and employees angry over proposed raises for city officials

11:37 PM, Oct 31, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A proposal to give Atlanta's Mayor and City Council significant raises is drawing fire from taxpayers and city employees who haven't received a raise in a decade.

"Stop the madness," said city employee Gina Pagnotta-Murphy. "It's not professional and it's just overall mean spirited."

MORE | City of Atlanta salary recommendations

A citizens group, appointed by Atlanta's Mayor, members of city council, and the Atlanta School board, has recommended a 25% pay raise for the Mayor and a 52% increase for members of city council.

Council members currently make $39,473 for their part time council job. The recommendation of the Elected Officials Compensation Commission is to increase that pay to $60,300 a year.

Atlanta's Mayor currently makes $147,500 a year. The commission recommends increasing the pay for the Mayor's office to $184,300.

A spokesperson says Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will not accept a pay raise.

"Mayor Reed has made it clear he's not taking a raise as long as he's Mayor," said spokesperson Sonji Jacobs.

In just a half-hour, 11Alive received over 200 Facebook comments when asked if the raises are justified.

"No," said one viewer. "Not fair."

"In this economy, how can you justify this?"

Pagnotta-Murphy, head of Atlanta's Professional Association of City Employees, addressed members of council at Wednesday's finance committee meeting.

"All the council knows is 50% more money," said Pagnotta-Murphy. "We can't get 1% a year. It's madness."

Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who chairs the finance committee, said she hadn't thoroughly studied the commission's report, but as of now supports some kind of raise for council members.

"Based on what I've seen, it is reasonable to be comparable with elected officials in other cities, so I would be supportive of this," said Moore.

11Alive presented Moore with the viewer comments and asked her to read them before voting on anything.

"I think taxpayers never support any increase for elected officials," said Moore. "I think they would have some heartburn with it."

Members of the commission hired an independent company that compared the salaries of Atlanta's elected officials to pay in other cities. Those cities included Dallas, Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Washignton D.C.

"Atlanta's city council was the third lowest paid," said commission member Wendy Green. "The Mayor was the third lowest paid of Mayors we identified."

The city's charter requires a pay study for elected officials every four years.

"This is my personal opinion, but I think the city council is grossly underpaid," said commission member Jamel DeCosta.

The proposal will be advertised for three weeks. During that time the public will be allowed review the report and comment on it. Sometime after that, the city's finance committee will vote on whether or not the pay recommendations should move forward.

The entire city council would have to approve the pay increases.

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