The Columbus City Council voted Tuesday to rescind the $4,000 pay raise it voted itself at the council’s June 18 meeting.
The only dissenting vote was Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, who made the motion at the council’s previous meeting to approve raising yearly pay to $21,500. An item concerning councilman salaries was not on the agenda emailed to media outlets late last week and was added by Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin to the agenda made available to the public at the meeting. The council pay will revert to $17,500 with the action.
In the first meeting of the new term, councilmen also approved to limit the term of vice mayor to one year and appoint Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor to that post, replacing Gavin.
The first nomination considered was from Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box, who nominated Gavin for reappointment. Gavin seconded Box’s motion, but none of the four others followed, and the motion failed 4-2.
Gavin then nominated Taylor before the council’s lone new member, Ward 4’s Marty Turner, made a substitute motion to limit the term of vice mayor to one year. Taylor seconded the substitute motion with Mickens casting his vote in support. Box, Gavin and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem voted in dissent. Mayor Robert Smith broke the tie in favor. The board then revisited Gavin’s initial motion, which passed 5-1 with Karriem opposing.
As for rescinding the raise, Karriem, who voted for the pay raise on June 18, said he would refuse the raise because he didn’t believe it was the right time.
“I can’t legitimately take a pay raise as I see my brothers and sisters walk up and down the street needing employment and jobs,” Karriem said.
Before Karriem’s announcement, Gavin began discussion by saying the council’s initial decision was made in haste.
“The pay raise, to me, comes at a very inopportune time for the city,’ Gavin said. “The city’s sales tax has been down eight out of the last 10 months. We’re now over $100,000 below where we were last year. That money is not going to come back into the city coffers.
“Property value has decreased and the value of a mill is a lot less now than it was several years ago, so we face some economic challenges for the city. The $4,000 per individual that sits here totals to a grand total of $24,000. That, in itself, is not a lot of money, but it does go back to hire people. That’s a $24,000 job for someone.”
Gavin added if the council did not rescind the raise he would use the extra money he would receive to open a scholarship at East Mississippi Community College, where he is employed.
“A little over a month ago, all of us up here were out going door- to-door in everybody’s neighborhood, asking people to vote for us,” Gavin said. “We asked them to trust us to lead this city and be good stewards.”
Box also he would take any additional money and use it to create a scholarship at the local YMCA for children whose parents were employed with the city.
The council voted 3-2 for the raise on June 18, with Karriem seconding Mickens’ motion and Taylor joining in support. Box and Gavin voted against the raise. Then-Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart did not attend what would have been his last meeting as an elected official.
Turner said after the meeting he voted for rescinding the pay increase because his constituents weren’t in favor of one and weren’t represented during the first vote.
“My neighbors didn’t agree with the raise and it is the people’s office and their opinion is what counts,” Turner said. “With or without the $4,000, my salary will be used to help fund projects in my community.”
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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