Gas cash adds fuel to trustee pay debate

Published on: 2/13/2013

Hales Corners - The village's Committee of the Whole voted Monday to turn down a $25 raise in monthly trustee gas reimbursement after a pitched discussion on compensation rates.

The vote came after several suggestions to increase trustee compensation were presented by Trustee Joseph Mesec.

Among Mesec's suggestions, which he obtained after reviewing two studies on local municipalities, were to either increase trustee compensation by $50 or $100 per month. Other compensation changes suggested were to increase Village President Robert Ruesch's monthly compensation by $75 or $150 per month or to impose a $25 meeting attendance bonus.

Compensation is currently $300 per month for trustees and $450 for the village president, with each earning a $25 per month fuel compensation.

According to Mesec's calculations, the proposed compensation changes could have cost the village a total of $6,600 or $11,100 per year.

Yearly compensation chang es, if approved, would not have taken effect until each trustee went through an election. The mileage reimbursement, however, would have taken effect immediately.

Gas or other costs?

Arguing for a $25 per month increase in mileage reimbursement, Mesec said, 'I know you can't justify it completely by mileage but there's other ancillary stuff that you have to purchase or at least use. I've printed a lot of stuff in the past and the paper cost is not that bad, but it's the purchasing of the cartridges and my cartridges cost, one of them was one and a quarter months pay.'

His proposal was rebuffed by Trustee Daniel Besson, who argued that adding office supply costs to mileage reimbursement was deceitful.

'If you're going to have office supplies for trustees, (label it) office supplies and not a gas fund,' Besson said. 'Put it out to the public. Politicians get a bad name by trying to hide stuff. I'm not saying we're trying to hide anything and we're not too bad off, are we?'

Comparably speaking

Mesec compared Hales Corners to neighboring municipalities, including Greendale, Greenfield and Franklin. The two studies he prepared, however, contained compensation figures from over 30 municipalities.

While acknowledging that Greendale, Greenfield and Franklin compensations were higher than Hales Corners, Besson remained staunchly opposed to a compensation increase. He argued that the best comparison to Hales Corners would be Mukwonago, which pays their trustees $4,200 and president $7,200 annually.

Trustee Mary Bennett, who supports the idea that the village review trustee compensation annually, was nonetheless was opposed to increasing compensation while the board is trying to cut back on overall spending.

After much back and forth, Trustee Don Schwartz moved to recommend an increase in village mileage rates by $25 per month. But the measure, favored by Mesec and Ruesch, failed on a 4-3 vote.

The committee, however, voted unanimously to recommend that the Village Board annually review trustee compensation.