Harrison's City Council says they are committed to answering that question, but don't know the answer yet.
The salary for being the Mayor of Harrison will most likely see a substantial increase in the coming months. The raise will not go into effect for the current mayor’s term but will be in effect at the next term, starting in 2023 and following the election this fall.
In February Financial Officer Luke Feighert brought the matter before the city council’s finance committee and wanted to make it clear that he alone was the one bringing the matter before them, not in conjunction with the mayor or anyone else.
He explained that an average salary for a mayor in the town the size of Harrison should be around $85,000 a year. Currently the mayor’s salary is $65,159.22. He also said the members of the city council should be given a raise based on the same population study done for the office of mayor. Currently each council member is paid $4,817.28 each year. Feighert said that should be raised to $6,000 annually
When this matter was brought to the full council on Tuesday night discussion lasted more than 30 minutes and ended with no immediate action but a commitment from the committee to look deeper into the matter and determine what salary adjustments are appropriate.
Finance committee chair Mitch Magness said, “My personal opinion is that, that number should increase. I’m uncomfortable naming an amount without more information.”
The council was provided with salary comparisons for mayors in many cities of like size across Arkansas and compensation varies from city to city. For instance, in Mt. Home the mayor is reportedly paid $71,685 a year. More than Harrison’s mayor but lower than the Mayor of Batesville who is paid $85,200 annually while Batesville’s population (10,248) is lower than both Harrison (12,943) and Mt. Home’s (12,448).
According to the list the smallest city to pay their mayor $85,000 or more a year is Centerton whose population is 9,515.
During the February committee meeting Councilman Bill Boswell balked at such a large salary increase and in Tuesday’s council meeting, he said, “that hasn’t changed, and I have had my phone ring off the hook at the house about the issue. They understand, and I know we’ve discussed the fact, in regard to, you pay the position, not the person. But in this instance, I also look at it from a standpoint is that the mayor doesn’t necessarily have to have the highest salary in the city. His department heads need to be the one’s because they’re the ones that actually run the show. They make it happen.”
He went on to say, “It’s not like hiring a superintendent of schools, you go out there and get the best that you can get. We the people of Harrison vote on an election.”
Magness added, “Right, and the qualifications, like for superintendent, only so may people qualify… here the only requisite and qualification is somebody votes, that’s it.”
Councilman Joel Wells said, “It’s a little more expensive to run for office than it is for a job at the school.”
Council member Reed Petty said, “As I look at this what weighs heavily on my mind is does this send a signal that only a rich man can be able to serve as mayor, and I don’t mean to be disparaging in that comment. We disqualify people who perhaps would otherwise be very appropriate to the position because they can’t afford to live on this salary.”
In the end the council voted for what City Attorney Grant Ragland said is a symbolic gesture to review the matter and make a recommendation for what exactly the new salary for mayor should be. Discussion also indicated that the final determination may not be done until the city begins working on the budget for the 2023 fiscal year later this summer.