HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg's next mayor and council will have much larger salaries than the city's current leaders.
City council members voted 3-2 Tuesday to increase the mayor's pay by about 34.3 percent and council member pay by about 68.7 percent for the 2017-2021 term. With the change, the mayor's salary will be increased from $81,890 to $110,000, and council member salaries will be increased from just under $16,000 to $27,000.
"There's only one time in a four-year-term when you can raise the salary of the mayor and the council, and that is prior to the next election," said council president Carter Carroll. "So the council cannot give themselves a salary. This will be a pay raise for the next council and mayor after the June election."
Carroll was one of the two votes against the pay raise. Council Vice President Mary Dryden was the other dissenting vote.
"When I ran for council 17 years ago, I was here to serve," Carroll said. "It was not to make a full-time job or anything like that. So I feel like I do a service to this community, and the payment is adequate for right now."
None of the members who voted for the pay raise - Kim Bradly, Deborah Delgado and Henry Naylor - commented on their votes Tuesday. However, Bradley said in September he felt the pay wasn't adequate for the amount of work a councilperson does.
"Honestly, I might've been the only one that was pushing it," Bradley said as the council was adjusting its 2017-2018 budget. "I'm not coming back to work here next year. I know $15, 967 is not enough for what we do. I know you don't want to create something in the $24,000-$25,000 range where somebody tries to make this a be their job. That's not what it's meant to be. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what the dollar amount would have to be to make it worthwhile because it does take a lot of time. You do this because you want to serve. You don't do it because you want the $10 an hour."
Comparatively, Hattiesburg City Council members will now be paid more than those elected officials in Gulfport and Ocean Springs, and will only be paid about $2,600 less than those in Biloxi.
Hattiesburg's mayor will have a higher salary than mayors in Gulfport and Ocean Springs and be paid about $6,000 less than the mayor of Biloxi.
Carroll said the money for the salary increases will come from the city's general fund, and said that money could be better spent elsewhere.
"Absolutely I think it could be used other places," Carroll, who is the longest serving council member, said. "That's why I voted against it."
When asked how he thought citizens and voters would react to the pay raise, Carroll said he only speak for himself.
"Well, I can't speak for everybody on how they feel, but I just felt like at this time, I could not support a raise for either the mayor's position or the council."