by Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
4:52 PM CST, March 4, 2013
A Kansas community is upset over a $15,000 pay raise for its city manager. City commissioners in Herington approved the pay raise at their last meeting. Now, residents say, they feel like commissioners tried to sneak the raise past them, while commissioners say it's the cost of doing business.
In Herington everyone has an opinion.
"It was kind of a slap to the taxpayers," said Deborah Goembel.
"It's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous," said Tracy Thiel.
"I wish we had better representation than that," added Bart Hinkle.
Even residents' lawns are testimony to their concerns. Hinkle used snow art and signs to lay out his complaint against the pay raise.
"As all levels of government are trying to cut budgets and rein in spending, here at our local level we have $15,000 being flushed down the toilet, in my opinion," said Hinkle.
Most of Herington's 2,400 residents are upset about the raise. "And so this kind of tops his pay up to over $101,000 a year for a small city," said Goembel.
At the last City Commission meeting, commissioners added an unexpected, late agenda item. Then they approved a $15,000 raise for the city manager, bringing his total to $101,000 a year.
"Nobody could protest it," said Goembel, since it wasn't on the agenda before the meeting. "We had two commissioners not present."
"They've raised our water rates, electric rates, because we can't afford this, we can't afford that," said Thiel. "It's always something. And then all of a sudden there's this found $15,000 just to hand to the manager."
Eyewitness News spoke with one city commissioner who says a lot of the controversy comes from residents not understanding exactly what it is that a city manager does.
"The city manager executes that policy within the town," said Commissioner DJ Neuberger. "And that is on a wide range of things."
Neuberger was present at that meeting and voted for the raise, even though it was more than he wanted. He says the raise wasn't a cost of living adjustment, but a merit raise. "He has saved the city money," Neuberger said.
Deborah Goembel doesn't think that's enough. "As far as I'm concerned, that's his job. There shouldn't be a big $15,000 a year pay increase because you did your job."
Meanwhile, Hinkle hopes the next sign he puts up is one of change. "I hope they take a look at the whole compensation and contract and compare that with similar sized towns," he said.
Prior to this raise, the Herington city manager had only received cost of living adjustments.
To put the his new salary into perspective, he's now making roughly $42 per resident. That's compared to Wichita's city manager who makes about 53 cents per resident.
City Manager Ron Strickland declined to comment on the raise, telling Eyewitness News that that was something between the Commission and himself.
Hinkle and others plan to protest before the next City Commission meeting, Tuesday afternoon.
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