Cleburne City Council members decided Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, to let voters decide whether or not they should be compensated for their service. Voters will weigh in on that and other proposals addressing the city’s charter, as well as two council seat elections, on May 11.
Council members serve without pay save reimbursements for expenses directly related to city business.
Under the proposal, council members would receive $50 per regular and called council meeting, which would include budget and other workshop sessions for an annual amount not to exceed the salary of the lowest paid city employee. The proposal also calls for a $100 monthly stipend for the mayor. Council members would continue to be reimbursed over and above their pay for all eligible city related expenses allowed by state law.
Councilman Dale Sturgeon suggested adding the “regular and called meeting” language into the proposal to bar the possibility of one or more council members meeting with the city manager or other city staff and classifying that as a for-pay meeting.
The salary of the city’s lowest paid position totals $25,366.75 per year, City Manager Rick Holden said.
The idea behind the pay is to protect council members, at least to some degree, from personal liability, which is similar to how the law works for paid city employees.
“This would leave council members not so open to litigation if they are sued in an individual capacity [in connection with their official city related duties],” City Attorney Fritz Quast said.
City staff members surveyed area cities roughly equivalent to Cleburne in size and population who pay their council members. Pay rates in those cities range all over the map, Quast said, from $1 per meeting on up.
Council members said compensation may encourage residents who could not otherwise afford to serve to seek office.