The St. Maries City Council voted unanimously to raise the pay of the mayor and council members at their meeting Monday, Aug. 12. 

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the pay for the mayor will increase from $500 to $900 per month and the wages of a council member will increase from $250 to $350 per month.

Treasurer Celia Sibert explained that there are only certain years where the council may decide to increase wages for the mayor and councilmen. She explained that the increases could be funded without increasing property taxes. 

Ms. Sibert had suggested increasing the mayor’s pay to $750 and a councilman’s pay to $375. However, Councilman Steve Dorendorf suggested a lower increase for the council members and a higher increase for the mayor.

“In my opinion, the mayor is highly underpaid for the amount of time he puts in,” Mr. Dorendorf said. “I think a higher increase for the mayor is well deserved and I think that would be the more fair way to do.”

During a budget workshop Aug. 7, Ed Spooner said it had been a number of years since the wages had been increased for the mayor and council. Randy Saunders agreed. 

Speaking at the workshop, Mayor Tom Carver said the office of mayor was similar to having a full-time job. 

Mark Reynolds, public works director, said he did not think the council should feel bad about raising their wages. 

“You guys spend a lot of time here and with more projects coming there are going to be a lot more meetings,” he said. 

In addition to a raise for the council and mayor, the budget includes a 50-cent raise for employees.

The budget for the 2020 fiscal year will include no increases in property taxes for city residents.

There was little discussion at the meeting Aug. 12 about property taxes. Mr. Dorendorf made it clear that he was not going to vote for an increase in his wages and then “turn around and increase property taxes” for city residents.

“I’m totally against that,” Mr. Dorendorf said. 

The council voted unanimously not to increase property taxes.

During the budget workshop, Mr. Dorendorf also stated he was not in favor of raising property taxes either to simply “stuff money in the bank.”

Randy Saunders agreed that he didn’t want to raise taxes just for the sake of raising taxes. He did say, however, that the city can save “little by little or go into debt” for projects. 

However, the council discussed the need to raise sewer rates and voted unanimously to do so by one dollar Aug. 12. Mayor Carver said the average sewer rate for the state of Idaho is $45 to $55 a month. The city of St. Maries charges $23. 

“This comes up when I’m sitting across the table working with USDA trying to get our loan approved for the sewer project,” Mayor Carver said. “We are way behind. But we can’t raise it up to $55.”

The council agreed a $1 would be a good place to start. 

“We have needs,” Mr. Saunders said. “It’s not to increase it to get closer to what other cities are charging. We are way behind on what our system needs…it’s a start.”

“I don’t think one dollar will irritate people too much,” Mr. Dorendorf said. 

Garbage rates will also increase by 50 cents per the city’s contract for services. Ms. Sibert said the budget will have about $10,000 in additional revenue from new construction.

The total proposed budget for the upcoming year is $3.533 million. The public hearing for the budget will be at the council’s next meeting at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26. Copies of the proposed budget are available at St. Maries City Hall.

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