From parks to public works projects, the various boards in Evansville’s city government impacts the lives of its citizens, perhaps without them even knowing it. In an effort to save money, however, some members of the City Council are exploring the possibility of eliminating the compensation that some members receive for serving on those boards.
The city has dozens of boards, serving as a liaison of sorts between department heads and the City Council. Many of these boards handle the day-to-day business that doesn’t necessarily require City Council approval, including dumpster permits and road closures for special events.
Some of the city boards, including the Redevelopment Commission and Water & Sewer Utility Board, however, deal with matters of great importance for the city such as large economic development and utility projects.
Facing a razor-thin budget in 2017 amid growing healthcare costs for city employees, members of the City Council are having to get creative in terms of saving money, said Councilman Jonathan Weaver (D-At Large).
“We appreciate their service but it’s probably come to the point in time where it needs to be unpaid,” Councilman Weaver said.
Weaver noted the closure of Anthony Oates Pool on the city’s southside as for what could happen if the budget isn’t made as lean as possible. The pool was closed for the 2016 season after funding was pulled during budget talks in late 2015.
There are 9 city boards whose members are compensated for their time, according to city records. The members of at least three of those boards, including the Police Merit Commission, Fire Merit Commission and Fire Pension Board of Trustees are required to be compensated in accordance with state law.
However, eliminating the compensation for the other six boards could save the city nearly $42,000.
“We really need to look at that,” Councilman Weaver said. “For the amount of time they do — we appreciate their service — but it comes to a point in time when the city can’t afford to pay.”
Some of the boards meet bi-weekly while others meet monthly. Each board meeting is open for the public to attend. Members of these boards are either appointed by the mayor or the City Council.
According to the proposed 2017 budget, the three boards whose members are the most highly compensated are the Board of Public Safety, Board of Public Works and Water & Sewer Utility Board.
Each member of the Board of Public Safety is to receive $2559. Each member of the Board of Public Works are to receive $3199, while each member of the Water & Sewer Utility could receive $3935.
Steve Schaefer, the mayor’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that the mayor’s office applauds the Council for doing its due diligence with the 2017 budget and is open to discussions regard board members’ pay. He just wants to ensure an adequate amount of research is done, Schaefer said.
“Some of the most critical boards like the Water and Sewer Utility Board… they deal with massive contracts and deal with lots of numbers,” Schaefer said. “They have a certain level of expertise.”
“Have you noticed what’s missing from this list? The [Redevelopment Commission],” Weaver said. “They deal with big money and they’re not paid.”
Moving forward, there could be a concern about possible difficulties in finding qualified and interested people for those boards who are willing to serve pro-bono.
“I could see that argument but at the same time how many parks board meetings have you been to and they last 15 minutes?” Weaver said.
Weaver also said the discussions are very preliminary.