Lynchburg City Council voted to raise salaries for the mayor and city council members during Tuesday’s work session meeting.
Council voted to change the Lynchburg City Code to include a $4,000 increase in compensation for both city council members and the mayor — a change that wouldn’t go live until July 1, 2020.
Currently, council members make $10,000 annually and the mayor makes $12,000 annually without benefits. According to the Code of Virginia, cities with a population between 75,000 and 174,999 cannot pay council members or the mayor more than $23,000 and $25,000 a year, respectively.
During the meeting, Ward II council member Sterling Wilder motioned to increase each member’s compensation by $4,000, and Mayor Treney Tweedy seconded his motion. Council members Jeff Helgeson and Beau Wright also voted in favor of the motion.
City council has not increased its pay since 2008, when wages went from $8,000 to $10,000 for council members and $10,000 to $12,000 for mayor. Council considered pay increases in 2011, but did not make any changes. Lynchburg City Manager Bonnie Svrcek said council reviews salaries and is given the option to make changes every two years.
“For all the work we do, it is more than the $10,000 or $12,000,” she said. “People want to see their leadership. It shows the concern; it shows the listening ear. It takes a lot to be present to a city of 80,000 people.”
Wilder agreed and said he spends most of his weekends reading documents in preparation for council meetings and committees he’s a part of.
“It does require a lot of extra time,” he said, noting Charlottesville, which has a population of almost 50,000 people, pays its council members $18,000 per year and its mayor $20,000 per year, as confirmed by Charlottesville Clerk of Council, Kyna Thomas.
Wright said because of the part-time nature of serving on council, members have to be privileged and have a flexible or high-paying job to be a member. He said he hopes to make city council more accessible, equitable and diverse.
Ward IV council member Turner Perrow said he doesn’t see serving on council as a job, but as a “calling.”
“I think it’d be wrong for it to be considered a job,” Perrow said. “Then maybe I should have an office.”
Council discussed other financial matters throughout the hours-long meeting, including approving more than $3.8 million in funding for Lynchburg City Schools. The money is from $5 million in unspent funds from LCS’ fiscal year 2019.
LCS Superintendent Crystal Edwards initially requested the full $5 million to fund projects in the schools, but city staff recommended appropriating about $1 million less than requested. The remaining $1.2 million will be reserved for projects the task force on the future of education recommends, a group working to assess the needs and challenges facing LCS.
“There are many things in our fund balance request that our students can benefit from,” Edwards said during Tuesday’s meeting, noting the “big ones” include a new practice field for E.C. Glass High School and classroom technology upgrades.
Two E.C. Glass coaches and a student-athlete also spoke in favor of the request, alongside school board members and a group of about 30 LCS faculty and staff in attendance.
The motion passed 6-1, with Helgeson voting against the appropriation.
Council also unanimously approved a recommendation from the Lynchburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority to act as a conduit for up to $28 million in bonds for developers Atlantic Housing Foundation to rehabilitate the James Crossing Apartments on Florida Avenue.
The apartments are set to receive a $10 million facelift, which will include renovating the interiors and exteriors of all 288 units, improving landscaping and drainage issues, updating the community pool, installing new playground equipment and repairing the bus shelter.
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.