Durham votes 6-1 to raise mayor’s and council members’ pay. Here’s how much

·3 min read

The Durham City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to raise the pay for mayor and council members starting next year.

The mayor’s salary will rise from $29,875 to $41,536, and the salary for council members will rise from $25,378 to $35,200 beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

Council member Pierce Freelon, who is not seeking re-election, proposed the raises, saying bigger stipends would enable more people to run for public office.

“The salary issue is one of many issues that converge to prevent folks from having the access to serve,” he said.

Some Durham residents who spoke to the council Monday felt differently.

“At this time, during this pandemic, it seems like it is very insensitive to be pondering the increase of a stipend increase for City Council, “ said former Council member Jackie Wagstaff. “I don’t understand that logic.”

Wagstaff said people don’t run for office because of the money.

“Even if people can muster up the $200 to file, they will never gain because of the costs that it takes to run a campaign in Durham,” she said.

The News & Observer previously reported that some candidates in Durham’s current municipal election have raised more than $50,000 and have also spent just over $34,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Mayor Steve Schewel and Council members Javiera Caballero, Freelon, Jillian Johnson, Mark-Anthony Middleton and Charlie Reece voted for the raises.

Council member DeDreana Freeman voted against the motion.

“In terms of its cost over the next 10 years, the budget for for City of Durham will be more like $6 billion, so this increase is a very small drop in a very large bucket,” said Schewel.

Although Freeman said she had been on the fence about the issue, she ultimately voted no because she felt it was not the right time during a global pandemic. The money could be better spent in other ways, she said.

Freeman in Ward 1 and Middleton in Ward 2 are the only current council members up for re-election.

Caballero, who recently suspended her campaign for mayor, will remain on the city council until at least 2023 when her current term ends.

Middleton said there will never be a good moment to raise the council’s salary and noted that Durham was dealing with poverty and gun violence before the pandemic.

But Middleton said the council should always aim to leave the governing body “in a better position than [we] found it,” and voted yes to help those in the future make a livable wage for work equivalent to a full-time job.

The N&O previously reported that the Raleigh City Council is debating raising their salaries as well. According to the report, council members would still be making less than their counterparts in Durham, Greensboro, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem.

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