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City council wants to increase pay for councilmen, mayor one year after reducing mayor’s compensation
City council
Dawsonville Mayor and City Council

Originally updated: Jan. 24, 2019, 1:15 p.m.

The Dawsonville city council voted last week to tentatively approve a second reading of amendments to the city charter that include a pay raise for the council and mayor.

The council voted 3-1 Jan. 22 with council member Mark French in opposition of increasing the council members’ pay from $500 a month to $600 and the mayor’s pay from $600 to $1,000 a month.

The amendment also includes an increase for each city council meeting as well as other pre-approved meetings other than the first regular city council meeting of the month from $100 to $150.

The raises would not go into effect until after the next election cycle, meaning it will affect those who are seated on the council starting Jan. 1, 2020.

French stated he was against the increase in compensation from the first reading and said during a Jan. 7 council meeting that he would not support increasing the compensation of the mayor and council members as outlined in the proposed amendments because he did not think that the council’s duties had increased to account for it.

“I would like to state my continued opposition to any increase for the mayor or any member of the council,” French said during the Jan. 22 meeting.

No one else commented about the increases during the meeting.

The mayor was compensated $2,000 a month until December 2017, when the council voted to reduce the compensation by $1,400.

The change was made during the next to last meeting of the year when former city council members Angie Smith and Mike Sosebee remained on the council. They were replaced Jan. 1, 2018 by French and Stephen Tolson.

Smith said before the vote that the 2017 Municipal Wage and Salary Survey conducted by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs showed that the mayor of Dawsonville’s annual salary of $24,000 with a population between 2,500 and 5,000 residents put the mayor at the top of the range of salaries for cities that size.

“In our opinion, we were on the top end of that scale so we wanted to balance that out,” Smith said.

The decision was made at the first meeting conducted by Mayor Mike Eason.

Eason was sworn in Dec. 4, 2017 to serve as interim mayor until a special election could be held to fill former Mayor James Grogan’s unexpired term.

Grogan was voted out of office by the city council in May 2017 for violating the city charter, and his subsequent appeal of that decision was rejected by the Superior Court in October 2017.

Eason ran against Grogan in a special election and officially won the seat in March 2018.

Eason said Jan. 24 he had no involvement in the proposal of the raises.

“Whatever they want to pay me I’m fine with,” he said. “I’m not in this for the money. This was a collaborative effort and not a conspiracy by anyone to get more money.”

Eason said he did support the increase per meeting for the council members.

“People have to take off work to go to the meetings so I’m okay with $150,” he said.

French said he disagreed that the proposal of the raises was a “collaborative effort,” and stated Jan. 28 that he was not aware of who proposed the raises, and that he was not consulted about the raises prior to the draft amendments being composed.

 “We all knew what the position paid when we ran for office and if you don’t like it, it’s very easy to resign from your duties,” French said.  

According to the DCA’s 2018 wage and salary survey, the annual compensation amount for the Dawsonville mayor salary currently falls near the middle of the list of salaries in cities with similar population sizes, but would be moved to the top five percent with the new salary.

The annual compensation for Dawsonville city council members currently falls in the top 15 percent of compensation in cities with similar population sizes.

Dawsonville city council members are paid $6,000 annually with an estimated 2017 population of 2,634.The change to $7,200 annually would put Dawsonville city council members within the top 10 percent on the same list.

The change is among several amendments now being made to the city charter.

Other changes include adding language to more accurately describe the way council members will be elected in the upcoming election due to the addition of district posts, as well as make it clear that in order to be eligible to serve as a city council member, candidates must reside in their district posts for at least one year immediately prior to the date they take office and continue to reside in that post during their time in office, which the old charter does not specify.

The council must hold three hearings and two votes in order for charter amendments to be ratified.

There will be a third and final hearing of the charter amendments at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 4. The public is welcome to come and voice their opinions on any of the proposed changes.