AA City Council approves 37 percent pay raise for themselves

Ann Arbor City Council members voted on July 15 to accept increased salaries approved by the Local Officers Compensation Commission of the City of Ann Arbor in an 8-3 vote. The salary of the 10 council members will increase from $16,953.81 to $23,158.92.

Mayor Christopher Taylor will receive a small increase from $45,210.19 to $46,317.84, or an increase of 2 percent.

The eight in favor were Mayor Taylor, Anne Bannister, Kathy Griswold, Julie Grand, Jack Eaton, Elizabeth Nelson, Chip Smith, and Ali Ramlawi.

Mayor Taylor said he believed that the compensation commission should be supported in their recommendation.

“I will do whatever the compensation commission suggests without regard to which way it toggles,” Taylor said. “If they chose to double our salaries, I would support it. If they chose to halve our salaries, I would support it.”

Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, argued that the salary increases would make a significant difference in allowing more people to serve.

“This might be the difference between being able to afford child care, being able to afford health insurance,” Ramlawi said. “I would caution against setting the figure so low that only retirees and the well-to-do and the well-connected are involved in city politics because of the time commitment.”

Zachary Ackerman, the sponsor of the resolution to reject the raises, along with council members Jeff Hayner and Jane Lumm, voted against the salary raises.

“For me tonight, I can’t vote for a raise for myself on principle, so unfortunately, I can’t vote for a raise for all of you either,” said Ackerman, D-3rd Ward.

Ackerman instead suggested that the council consider a sliding pay scale based on need.

“If we want to make diversity at this table by age and by income more accessible, we need to be examining our salary systems,” Ackerman said. “A flat raise doesn’t open the door to many more people, and I want us to examine systems with a sliding scale based on need that would allow more people to serve and move us closer to an equitable playing field.”

Hayner, D-1st Ward, said he was torn on the issue.

“I’m kind of torn about it because I could use the money. Believe it out there in the audience, it is a low-wage job and is not paying the bills,” Hayner said. “The time commitment [of the job] has forced me to change my habits as an independent contractor. Over the last seven or eight months, I have not been taking the types of jobs that I have in the past.”

He eventually voted against the increase, arguing that 37 percent was too much of a pay raise.

Under the recommendation of the compensation commission, the council members’ salaries are set to 50 percent of the Mayor’s salary for each year. The Mayor’s salary is increased in the next two fiscal years equal to the average of the annual percent change in CPI for the year 2018 and the annual percent change in City nonunion employee compensation for the year 2018.

Current salaries for the Mayor plus the 10 council members total $214,748.29, according to the compensation commission. For the fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1, 2020, the total will increase to $277,907.04. For the fiscal year 2022, which starts July 1, 2021, the total will increase to $284,715.83.