City OKs 2 percent raise for mayor for next four years

Belleville aldermen on Monday night voted 15-1 to give 2 percent pay raises for the mayor, city clerk and treasurer positions for the next four years beginning on May 1 — after the April municipal elections.

The current officeholders — Mark Eckert, City Clerk Dallas Cook and Treasurer Dean Hardt — all have terms that end next spring. The winners of the April 4 election will get the pay raises.

Eckert and Hardt have said they plan to run for re-election while Cook has said he will announce his intentions after the Nov. 8 election. He is running for St. Clair County circuit clerk as a Republican and challenging incumbent Kahalah Clay, a Democrat.

Ward 5 Alderman Phillip Silsby initiated the proposal to increase the pay of the three citywide offices.

Silsby told the council that these positions have not had a pay raise in four years and it would be another four years before a raise would be possible if it wasn’t implemented before the April election.

He said he appreciates the number of hours they work and that the aldermen have a chance to see this more so than members of the public.

Silsby also said he brought up this plan because, “We have many employees in the city who make more than these gentlemen.”

Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner was the only alderman to vote against the salary increases.

“I just can’t see raising the salaries of politicians when we keep raising taxes on the residents of the city and we have a lot of people in the city on fixed incomes and I’m tired of taxing these folks to death,” Buettner said in an interview after the council meeting.

The pay raise plan calls for the three positions to get 2 percent pay raises on May 1, 2017; May 1, 2018; May 1, 2019; and May 1, 2020.

The city currently pays $83,152 for the mayor’s position, $72,066 for the clerk and treasurer positions and $11,086 to each alderman.

The mayor, clerk, treasurer and aldermen last received a pay raise on May 1, 2012, when received a 3.5 percent pay raise.

Earlier this year, the City Council granted pay raises for employees in the city’s nine unions. The four-year contracts call for workers to get 2 percent pay raises in the first three years and a 3 percent raise in the fourth year.

In other business

▪  The City Council accepted a study that says the Shopland shopping center meets the state’s definition of “blighted.” The shopping center is at the intersection of 70th and West Main streets and Foley Drive. Earlier this month, the city’s Economic Development & Annexation Committee recommended the City Council approve the study.

This is one of the steps necessary to create a special business district in which an extra 1 percent sales tax can be collected in the shopping and then used to renovate the center. Shoppers currently pay 8.1 percent sales tax.

▪  Organizers of the inaugural Belleville Main Street Marathon delivered a $4,500 check for the Belleville Parks & Recreation Department. The marathon was on Sept. 24 and the proceeds were earmarked for the city’s parks department and BackStoppers, which assists the families of police officers, firefighters and first-responders who are killed or suffer a catastrophic injury in the line of duty. The marathon will donate $1,500 to BackStoppers.