OCEAN CITY – A divided council postponed a vote this week to pass an ordinance on first reading increasing the salaries of future Mayor and Council members.

The ordinance states, “the Salary Review Committee is appointed by the mayor to review the salaries of the mayor and council members and to make salary recommendations which shall be considered by the City Council and adopted by Ordinance. The Salary Review Committee is to make a written recommendation by the February 1 prior to the next election and any salary increases are to be effective after the current terms expire.”

The ordinance continues, “the salaries of the mayor, council president and council members were last set by ordinance on April 11, 2005. The Salary Review Committee has submitted its report and has recommended that the salary for the positions be increased 12 percent.”

The increase would adjust the following positions effective Nov. 9, 2015 as follows; mayor’s annual salary would be $28,000, which is $2,333 per month; the council president’s annual salary would be $13,440, which is $1,120 per month; and council members’ annual salary would be $11,200, which is $933 per month.

“I wanted to make clear this does not pertain to this council. It will not take effect until after the next election. You cannot do this when you are sitting on the council. You can only approve raises for future council,” Councilwoman Laura Mitchell said.

Councilman Tim Spies was the first to state his opposition to the ordinance. When the council first examined the matter, it was given a list of municipalities roughly the same size as Salisbury within a 100-mile radius.

“Our salaries are pretty much in keeping with those if not higher,” Spies said.

Spies furthered the concept of approving the recommended increases to ensure the future participation of qualified candidates for public office is off.

“Is the raise of $1,140 going to bring anybody more qualified than someone who would come and do it for $10,000?,” Spies asked. “I consider this a public service … I think that it is appropriate for people to come out if they feel motivated to take the reins and responsibility, and the heartbreak sometimes of being a City Council member then they should come out and do it for a nominal sum. What we are getting is more than nominal, it’s right up in keeping with other municipalities such as our own. I don’t know what makes us feel as if we are special but I don’t think that we are as far as this issue is concerned any more special than anybody else.”

Council President Jake Day agreed the proposed raises are nominal and would not change the nature of candidates for office.

“I look at this as a pretty disconnected adjustment from more serious conversations that need to be had … a structural conversation is necessary when I look at the mayoral position,” Day said.

Day acknowledged Mayor Jim Ireton has taken on what is classified as a part-time mayoral position but works full-time as the mayor, while also juggling a part-time teaching career.

“You have to design these positions around what you want, not what you have. We have a part-time job in terms of salary but I think that position should be compensated at a rate of full-time if we expect that person to be there full-time,” he said. “I realize that our past mayor was able to do that being retired but our current mayor is a young person who has a part-time teaching position, so I think that is conversation worth having before we take any action regarding salaries.”

Councilwoman Shanie Shields is in favor of the pay raises due to the increase in hours and increase in costs involved with the positions. When she was elected to council in 2005, she said the council followed a schedule of having two legislative sessions and one work session a month. That has increased to two work sessions a month as well as holding special meetings.

“I am staying in meetings until 11 or 12 o’clock at night,” she said. “Expenses have also gone up. We may have a person join council on a fixed income and will not be able to afford the expenses that come along with it … I will be voting for this because somebody else may come and will be sacrificing their full-time job as the mayor has done.”

Mitchell supported the ordinance, but agreed a conversation over the mayoral position should be had.

“The responsibilities and expectations for council members and the mayor  — places to be, things to do, representing your city, answering questions, making those connections — most of those things cost money. I did my taxes today, and even after what I will be reimbursed for I still spent more then what I make … I am not so much concerned the extra little bit of money will bring better candidates as I am that not having that little extra money because it does cost money to be elected … it can’t be to your detriment. There is doing it for a service, and then there is costing money, and when it starts to cost you money to serve your city you have to look at whether you can even afford to it.”

With the council divided, Shields made a motion to table the ordinance on first reading to be voted on at a later date, and the council voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Terry Cohen absent, to postpone the vote.

“I would like to hear the public weigh in on this. The public has been very quiet about it,” Spies said.