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TIMES EDITORIAL: Manchester officials shouldn’t raise their own pay

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

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Manchester Times Editorial

By voting last week to keep in place a generous pay raise for its members, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen have undercut one of the primary responsibilities that taxpayers charged them with when they were elected to office – proper management of tax dollars.

The concept that an elected board can raise the salary for current-term members is befuddling to us. Not to mention the move is ethically questionable, at best, and a black mark on Manchester’s reputation in a time we hope to grow our town.

Perhaps more disturbing than the idea of increasing these salaries is that the board had the opportunity to correct its mistake and didn’t, which makes us question motives. These compensation increases could have been postponed to the next group of elected officials but aldermen Ryan French, Donny Parsley and Roxanne Patton, along with Mayor Lonnie Norman, failed to seize that opportunity. Why? Do they feel it’s ethical to vote in a raise for themselves?

By casting a vote to postpone and lower the amount of these compensation increases, aldermen Cheryl Swan, Russell Bryan and Tim Pauley actually voted to take $7,200 per year out of their pockets (had the motion passed). We find that non-self-serving mentality and willingness to put city before self to be the epitome of an elected official and they should be properly praised.

The reason presented by some members of the board to make these changes to bring their compensation in line with other area municipalities doesn’t hold water, either. It sounds good on the surface. But a little investigation and a few phone calls shows that these pay hikes will dwarf surrounding municipalities – all of which have larger populations and broader tax bases than Manchester. These new compensations would mean Manchester’s mayor would make $600 more per month than the mayor of Murfreesboro, which is home to 98,653 more people.

We are not against increasing pay for elected officials if it is warranted. In this case, the rate of $250 per month for aldermen does seem somewhat on the low end. In fact, it is lower than McMinnville, Shelbyville and Tullahoma. But an increase to $400 would seem more appropriate. These positions are intended to be part-time positions and should remain that way.

No matter what the pay scale is, elected officials simply cannot be allowed to raise pay for current members in office. It sets a precedent for recklessness and wild spending that will only spill into other areas of our city’s government. And with a spending freeze currently in place and the city searching for ways to offset about $200,000 in new insurance costs that are expected, this move reeks of hypocrisy. It may not be illegal, but it is certainly unethical.

While we would like to say some of our officials do deserve a raise, unfortunately, some deserve to be fired.