COLUMBIA - If voters pass Proposition One on April 5, city council members and the mayor, won't be able to call their civic work volunteerism. If passed, Proposition One would pay the mayor $9,000 a year and each of the six council members $6,000.
Supporters of the Proposition say it's time for Columbia, now a city of more than 100,000, to offer a stipend to its elected officials. Even John Schultz, a fiscal conservative and chair of the Boone County Libertarian Party, said $45,000 is a small price to pay for public servants in a city with an operating budget in the hundreds of millions. Schultz lives in Columbia.
"I used to spend 40 to 60 hours a month during the time that I served as a city council member," said Laura Nauser. "Meeting with residents, planning for meetings, attending those meetings...it all adds up."
Nauser said she absorbed the cost of travel while fulfilling her role as a member of the council. Gary Kesphol, Ward 3 councilman, said he would accept the stipend if voters approve it, but that he would rather see the money go to providing for the city's fire and police departments.
Columbia residents have voted down stipends for council members and the mayor on four different occasions since the charter of the city. The most recent citywide vote came in 1992, when the measure was defeated by 54 percent of the electorate.
"Since my time in office, the city has grown dramatically," said Darwin Hindman, former mayor of Columbia. "Almost all cities of similar size provide a stipend to their elected representatives. Nearly none of them pay zero...Columbia is way behind the curve on that."
Hindman was a signatory on the letter sent to the city council that urged them to put the measure on the ballot for a vote.
If Proposition One passes, none of the current council members or mayor would receive the stipend, unless they are successful in their next reelection bid. The stipends would take effect in 2013.