A proposal to pay the Mesa mayor and City Council members an extra $50 a month for their car allowances was promptly yanked off the agenda Monday night amid protests from some council members.
Several members thought it was in poor taste toraise car allowances to $200 as the city prepares to lay off employees and cut programs.
“I think it’s politically inconvenient, if not downright stupid,” said Councilman Tom Rawles, one of the most vocal members opposed to raising the car allowance for himself and his colleagues.
Rawles and Councilman Rex Griswold also objected to $50 allowance increases for 55 executive employees. In a work session before the council meeting, Rawles failed to garner enough support in a 4-2 vote to strike those increases, which are already factored into the $973 million tentative budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.
If the City Council had raised its own allowances, it would have cost the city an extra $4,200 a year.
City Manager Christopher Brady said the car allowance increases for staff are being implemented because the executive staff is receiving a small 2 percent cost-of-living increase this year. He proposed increases for council because they qualify for a $50 boost.
A list provided by financial services manager Bryan Raines showed the $50 increase for upper management employees would cost an additional $2,750 a month — or $33,000 a year. In all, the allowances would cost $210,600. They won’t be finalized until the council approves the budget on June 26.
Many executive city employees already receive $250 to help pay costs for using their own cars. Others receive even higher allowances. City Manager Christopher Brady, for instance, currently receives $600 a month. The proposed $50 increase would bring him to $650 a month.
The raise in car allowances was meant to help ease the burden of high gas prices and increased operating expenses, Raines said.
In just a year, the East Valley saw a near 80-cent per gallon increase in gasoline, said AAA Automobile Club spokeswoman Linda Gorman, who is a former spokeswoman for Mesa. Last year, the average price was $2.236, compared with the current $3.013.
Most council members said they were surprised to learn they were about to vote on car allowance increases for themselves.
Car allowances were first implemented for council members in 2001, and have remained steady at $150 a month, Raines said. That same year, car allowances were implemented for selected employees. That number has fluctuated between $200 and $300.