Charleston County Council members authorized a pay study some months ago that included a review of their own salaries and - surprise! - it recom-mended pay hikes of more than 44 percent for council.
When has a consultant study ever recommended anything less than a healthy pay increase? And elected officials are usually willing to take the advice.
Just look at the South Carolina legislators who endorsed a backdoor pay hike of 50 plus percent late last session, only to have it vetoed. Those state lawmakers, too, had a consultant study done and it, too, recommended more pay.
But General Assembly members didn't want to call it a salary increase. Instead they described it as an increase in their in-district expense money, in a transparent effort to avoid the political consequences.
At least Charleston County Council members are calling the salary hike what it is, and Chairman Teddie Pryor has gone on record attempting to explain why he believes it is needed.
In this instance, pay for council members would be increased 44 percent, from $14,352 to $20,738. For the council chairman the raise would be 50 percent, from $17,347 to $26,142.
So far the arguments for the pay hikes are focused on the fact that council hasn't had a raise in recent years, and that the job is very demanding.
"County Council hasn't had a raise in 15 to 20 years. It's hard to attract good candidates for $25 per meeting," said Chairman Pryor. "It's not about me. It's about the people that come behind me."
That's one way to look at it, though the pay increases would be effective on Jan. 1, and Mr. Pryor is running unopposed, as are three other council members.
But the $25 a meeting objection doesn't hold water. There are 66 regularly scheduled council meetings a year, including planning and finance committees on which all council members serve. That figure probably rises to 100 with all other committee meetings included.
Of course, councilmen individually serve on multi-jurisdictional boards, including the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, and CARTA, to name just two.
But assuming that the figure rises to 150 meetings a year, council members are still getting substantially more than $25 per meeting. More like $100, and almost certainly more.
Plus, council members are eligible for medical insurance and retirement benefits, as Councilman Vic Rawl noted. As a retired judge, Mr. Rawl doesn't get any pay for serving on council.
None of that is to diminish the fact that serving on council is a demanding job, and good people are needed to offer for office. But we haven't seen a correlation between pay and the willingness to serve.
And there's been no shortage of council members motivated by public service, including those instances where members go on to higher office.
Pay has never been a determining factor for most who have sought council service, and increasing salaries shouldn't even be considered as a prelude to making council anything approaching a full-time job.
Chairman Pryor has delayed a vote on the pay hike until all council members can be present.
That's certainly a vote that deserves the full attention of council - and their constituents.
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