The Stonecrest City Council rejected Mayor Jason Lary’s latest attempt to increase pay for his position from $20,000 a year to $75,000.
Council members voted 4-2 against taking the steps necessary to increase the salary. Because a charter amendment is needed to change the mayor’s pay, the 2-year-old city must first take out ads and hold public hearings. The vote was against a resolution authorizing public notices about the pay increase.
The issue was discussed Wednesday night during a special meeting on five proposed charter amendments. Council members also discussed raising the cap on local property tax rates, eliminating a restriction on Stonecrest elected officials working for other cities or counties, and renaming the judicial position at Municipal Court to chief judge and the city accountant position to city finance director.
In a news release sent after the meeting, Lary said he was disappointed that a salary increase was taken off the table.
“It was my intent to give each citizen their say on each of these items,” he said.
It was at least the third attempt to push through a higher salary for Stonecrest’s mayor. The first was in 2016, when the General Assembly was authorizing the new city. Legislators amended early drafts and reduced the mayor’s salary.
During the most recent legislative session, senators representing Stonecrest killed a bill that would have increased Lary’s pay.
“I am in position now where I just want to move on,” Councilman George Turner said.
Only Lary and Councilman Jimmy Clanton voted in favor of pursuing the salary increase.
Voting took place at a special meeting held at Lary’s request. Some residents who attended complained after realizing the agenda did not allow for public comment. Others questioned why a special meeting was needed at all since the Stonecrest City Council has a work session already scheduled for Monday.
After the meeting, Lary said he called a special session because he will be traveling next week. Nonetheless, he said, there was no compelling reason for city council to take up the issue so quickly.
Council members also discussed a proposal that would allow Stonecrest to remove a cap on property tax rates. The city has not begun charging property owners, but presently can only set local rates at 3.35 mills or below.
Lary said the city needs flexibility to increase revenue as it prepares to take over services from the county, such as creating a police force. Any increase in city taxes would be offset by a similar decrease in county taxes, he said.
Councilwoman Diane Adoma was the sole “no” vote against moving forward on the property tax proposal. Adoma said Stonecrest should finalize a plan for when and how new departments will be created before deciding whether more revenue is needed.
“We may be opening up a blank piggy bank for any type of project, good or bad,” she said.
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