BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham City Council members are publicly defending themselves for the first time on Tuesday against community outrage after deciding to give new and re-elected council members a 233% pay raise in 2017.
For the past week, the majority of the council has refused to talk about this issue. Council President Johnathan Austin addressed the controversy first Tuesday morning on Good Day Alabama.
Right now, council members make $15,000 in their part-time positions. The 2017 council would make $50,000. The council justified this by saying the new salary is in line with other comparable cities and Austin said as the city has grown, so has the demands for council members.
"Council members spend about 50 hours a week outside of their normal jobs to really work in behalf of the citizens and that is all the way from all of my colleagues had to leave and go to a funeral today it's all the way neighborhood meetings, committee meetings," Austin said.
So Tuesday, we dug for the numbers to see how they really compare in cities with councils that serve roughly the same size population as Birmingham. Richmond, San Bernardino and Spokane do have slighly higher costs of living. Here's what we found:
Birmingham (Pop. 212,247): $15,000; bump to $50,000 in 2017
Montgomery (Pop. 200,667): $18,000 annually, $10,000 annual expense allowance
Richmond, Va. (Pop. 217,853) $25,000 for councilors; $27,000 for council president
San Bernardino, Cali. (Pop. 214,213): $550 per month for local travel; $50 per month for two council meetings; $150 per month for two community development meetings
Spokane, Wa. (Pop. 212,052): $30,000 for councilors; $50,000 for council president
Mayor William Bell also shared his thoughts on the vote.
"I think it was a surprise to everyone the way it came the way it did. Often times when you're dealing with funding for elected officials you need to have some type of public discussion on the matter and to my knowledge I don't think that happened," he said.