Batesburg-Leesville town council members have come up with an unusual way to give the town’s employees a pay raise without hiking taxes.
The council members plan to give up their own pay.
“I couldn’t serve with pay at the expense of our employees,” Councilman Chip Spradley said.
On Monday night, the eight members are expected to vote to give up their $4,000 annual salary — $6,000 for the mayor — to give all 53 full-time employees a 1 percent increase. That would help offset the rising cost of pensions.
A poll of the council by The State showed just one member opposes the idea.
The $38,000 that leaders in the Lexington County town of 5,500 residents are ready to give up isn’t large, but town workers appreciate the step.
“It’s a good gesture,” said utilities director Tim Schumpert, who oversees a staff of 15 providing water and sewer service. “It’s an incentive for our guys to do a good job.”
Police Chief Wallace Oswald said the town council “is pretty good about watching out for employees.” Oswald oversees a staff of 25 officers and dispatchers.
The total money saved, including benefits, totals $44,500.
“In the end, it’s what we needed to do,” Mayor Rita Crapps said of doing away with council pay.
But one council member isn’t happy with the idea. While council members will still be able to spend $1,500 apiece for travel and training, Councilman Charles Simpkins said more money for those expenses should be provided “if you ask people to serve.”
The decision to end council pay is unusual, according to the Municipal Association of South Carolina said.
Some officials in the state’s 270 communities pass on accepting salaries, but it’s unheard of for town leaders to do it as a group, said Reba Campbell, a deputy executive director at the association.
The pending decision to abolish council pay in Batesburg-Leesville comes as Crapps and four council members face re-election this fall with the threat of an emerging political conflict over whether to establish a 2 percent meal tax.
Councilman James Wiszowaty, a former mayor, is more upset over that idea than abolishing a salary he considers a luxury. “People are more concerned about that,” he said of the meal tax discussion.
Town leaders could still change their minds about eliminating their pay as the finishing touches are made to a $7 million spending plan, but several say the decision is locked in place.
“It certainly seems the direction we’re going in,” Councilman Todd O’Dell said. “I’m good with it.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483