Rockville's Compensation Commission has recommended a slight increase in the stipends for elected officials to keep up with the rising cost of living.
The Mayor and Council have not gotten raises since 2006, according to a report from the commission.
The Compensation Commission studies the stipends for Rockville's five elected officials every two years. Any change in compensation would take effect after the next election, so officials are not making changes to their own paychecks.
In Rockville, being the mayor or a member of the council is a part-time job. When Commission Chairman Jim Coyle was on the council, he estimated he worked an average of about 15 hours per week, although the hours varied. Being mayor was more of a time commitment, he said.
Many elected officials take time off work, hire babysitters or incur transportation costs to serve as the mayor or on the council, Coyle said. The stipend should be at least high enough to cover those expenses, he said.
“You don't want the burden to be so great that it would discourage people from wanting to serve,” Coyle said.
The mayor currently gets a $25,750 annual stipend, and councilmembers get $20,600. The commission has recommended that for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the mayor should be paid $26,581 and councilmembers should each get $21,265, plus any increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Washington-Baltimore area, a measure of the cost of living in the region.
Coyle said the practice of convening a Compensation Commission began while he was mayor.
“We always had these back-and-forths (about) the Mayor and Council compensation,” he said. “It was a hot potato.”
In 2005, after finding that Rockville's compensation levels were not comparable with similar jurisdictions and national trends, the commission recommended increasing compensation to near what it is today, Coyle said. Since then, the commission has usually recommended adjusting the stipend each year for the rising cost of living, he said. In some years, however, the Mayor and Council have declined the commission's suggested increase or have not funded increases when it came time to budget for them.
If the Mayor and Council had kept adjusting the 2005 compensation levels for increases in the CPI, stipends would have been closer to $30,000 for the mayor and $25,000 for councilmembers, according to the report.
In 2009, the Mayor and Council rejected a proposed stipend increase for fiscal year 2010 but approved cost-of-living increases for fiscal 2011 and 2012. However, the Mayor and Council did not fund the 2012 increase, according to the report. In 2011, they rejected proposed increases for fiscal 2013 and 2014.
The Mayor and Council are expected to discuss the Compensation Commission's recommendation at their April 8 meeting.