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Assembly decides to keep current compensation for members

Posted: May 1, 2014 - 8:25pm  |  Updated: May 1, 2014 - 9:25pm

The debate may be dead — for now.

At its previous two meetings, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has debated compensation for its members.

While the assembly voted down any change to current compensation levels at its April 15 meeting in Seward, assembly member Brent Johnson gave notice of wanting to reconsider the vote before adjournment.

However, he said in a Clarion interview Thursday that he will probably not move for reconsideration at Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

“In the notice of reconsideration I was trying to think of a way to save that $25 that we cut off of the Internet fee,” Johnson said. … “I put in the notice of reconsideration so I could have a little bit of time to see if I could think of a way to make that all happen. So unless somebody says something at the meeting that is going to spark so interest, I probably will not pursue this anymore at this time.”

Johnson introduced an ordinance to cut some benefits members receive and increase monthly allowances at a previous assembly meeting.

While Johnson doesn’t think members are overcompensated, he also doesn’t think the borough can continue to afford to offer healthcare to assembly members. He said it costs the borough $18,600 per year per assembly member for insurance, which he didn’t have prior to being elected. Johnson does estimate, however, that he likely loses money serving on assembly.

Assembly member Charlie Pierce said when the hours spent answering phone calls, researching, staying current on issues and traveling are added together, he doesn’t think anybody can break even based current compensation levels.

Pierce said when he travels for borough business, he takes personal leave from his job and the allowance for assembly members doesn’t come close to reimbursing him.

Assembly member Bill Smith, who introduced a substitute ordinance to increase members’ monthly allowances effective in October 2016, said he also possibly loses income based on the same concept.

“My viewpoint was that the income that I don’t receive because of the time that I take off is roughly equivalent or more that I lose than I get in compensation,” Smith said.

Assembly member Sue McClure who represents the east peninsula and is a retired schoolteacher, said she estimates she makes money by serving on the assembly.

“I would think I come out ahead,” she said. “I haven’t really kept track, but … it’s certainly not costing me money.”

McClure opted not to accept healthcare coverage from the borough but, she said she appreciates the mileage and car allowance because she drives from Seward for meetings.

“My round trip each meeting is 190 (miles),” she said. “It’s a lot of miles. And the wear and tear factor because of that there is more tire use.”

McClure said when she is term-limited out, while she’ll be driving less, she’ll likely notice the missing benefits.

Johnson originally introduced an ordinance that would have cut some benefits to assembly members — including healthcare — and increased monthly allowances to $875 for members and $1,000 for the president.

“In the end it’s a small part of the budget, but I just look for small ways to make things happen,” Johnson said.

The assembly replaced it with a substitute ordinance brought forward by Smith which increased monthly allowances for members to $560 and $700 for the president.

At the April 15 meeting, the assembly voted to remove the Internet allowance from assembly benefits, but the amended Smith ordinance was voted down.

While Pierce thinks compensation is necessary, he would like to see changes made to it in the future.

“I think what I’d like to do is just simplify it and come up with a monthly salary without a medical benefit included in it and make it fair,” he said.

 

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com

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