The Sitka Assembly may be getting a pay raise. When the assembly met last night (8-22-23) , it approved on first reading a measure that would increase their compensation for the first time in over 20 years.

Since 2002, Sitka assembly members have earned $300 dollars a month, and the mayor has earned $500. The sixty percent pay raise would bump the mayor’s stipend up to $800 dollars and the assembly’s up to $500. All-in-all, it would cost the city an additional $18,000 a year.

City Administrator John Leach sponsored the ordinance. He said the work the assembly does goes far beyond their regular meetings, and he wanted to acknowledge that time.

“Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of individual working time with all of the assembly members. I mean, we’ve got numerous, numerous ordinances that come forward and and my office has had to call any one of you to say, ‘Can you give us an hour or two hours of your day to come in and sit down at a table with me [and] help craft an ordinance, help put a resolution together, help with some administrative policy,” Leach said. “Something that that requires your time and effort outside of just the few hours you sit here.”

“I know there’s a lot of research that goes into the decisions the assembly has to make,” he added. “And that time just doesn’t happen on its own.”

The city’s charter gives the assembly the authority to set its own pay rate. During public comment, Austin Cranford, who is running for a seat on the assembly this year, thought the assembly should put the pay raise out to a public vote. 

“As the current assembly members, you have a financial interest in this ordinance, as it increases your pay and therefore is of substantial economic interest,” Cranford said.

The assembly didn’t debate whether to put a potential pay increase out to the voters. Their discussion focused, mainly, on the costs associated with serving on the assembly. Assembly member Crystal Duncan said the substantial time commitment discourages people from running, and raising the pay could chip away at that barrier. .

“We have to show up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, sometimes Mondays, occasionally Saturdays, which means for a good segment of Sitka who have to work a second job to make ends meet, they cannot just scratch out and show up to meetings on occasion,” Duncan said. “So what that then entails is a lack of representation.”

“I think this is completely fair,” said assembly member Kevin Mosher. “And for those who write to complain or grump, I would say that…the city’s been saving money for 20 years by not having any increases. And I would anticipate there’s not gonna be another increase for quite some time, so I’m okay with this.”

The assembly approved the ordinance unanimously. It will come before the assembly again for a final reading in September. If it passes, it will go into effect after the October 3 municipal election.