Stipends are not the right decision when serving as a volunteer

By Scott Olson

Publisher – The Creswell Chronicle

Last month the topic of giving monthly stipends to the mayor and those serving on the Creswell City Council was brought up during a city council work session. While no action was taken at this month’s council meeting, a decision on this issue will be forthcoming soon.

To me, a monthly stipend as compensation for a position that has been a volunteer position is not right.

The intent of serving on a board or council is the desire to give back to your community because you want to make a difference. People who volunteer to serve feel it’s their civic duty to represent the people. Compensating a person for serving on a board or council has the appearance of serving as a career and opens a can of worms where decisions can be made to garner votes.

The City of Creswell does not have a strong mayor system of government. It has a City Administrator that it pays to guide the mayor and council, as does its City Attorney, on whom they rely to make sure rules are followed correctly.

Every year, costs continue to increase – this includes the cost for utilities, the public service fee and salaries for paid city staff. Many residents within the City of Creswell are already struggling to make ends meet, and now they may be asked to compensate their elected council to the tune of $16,800 per year?

I know this is a modest amount of money, but costs add up and someone still has to pay the additional cost. The proposed stipend for councilors is $175 per month, while the mayor would receive $300 per month and the council president would receive $225 per month.

I know that Creswell has had a hard time recruiting new councilors and having councilors serve out their entire term of office, but dangling a carrot of a $175 per month stipend is not the answer.

It has been my view that many councilors have left their positions because of health issues, moving out of the area, or a change in their employment status. Those who have chosen to serve in the past have done so because they love their community and want to make a difference. If the city wants to maintain a full council, it might want to consider reducing the number of councilors from six to four, plus the mayor.

Creswell is a town of just over 5,000 residents within its city limits. Although there is time invested on serving on the city council, it’s not like it would be in a city the size of Springfield, which is 11 or 12 times larger in population and has many more issues to address on a monthly basis.

I’m a true believer in community volunteerism. It is what helps make any community great. Serving on a city council is the ultimate expression of volunteerism. If a stipend is implemented, who’s to say when it would stay at the proposed rates. I believe the public should determine if they feel this is the way they want their money spent.