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Newport considers whether to pay its city council members

Newport Oregon city hall
Chris Lehman
/
KLCC
City council members in Newport are considering whether to create a stipend for council member. File photo of Newport's City Hall.

The city of Newport is considering whether its city council members should be paid a stipend.

The current city council isn’t legally allowed to vote to pay themselves, but they could vote for a stipend to take effect after the next election. Or, they could send the question to Newport voters.

Either way, "there'd be a delay in implementation so that it wouldn't impact anyone until their term was up and they ran for re-election on the council," said City manager Spencer Nebel.

The idea behind the proposal is to make serving on the council appeal to a wider cross-section of residents.

"The council has been really focused on, how do we expand the ability of folks that may have limited financial means to potentially run and serve as a city council member, and particularly working families,” said Nebel. "One of the thoughts is providing some sort of compensation that would help offset things like childcare or other expenses, or if they have to take vacation time to attend conferences or attend certain meetings."

Nebel said no decision has been made yet, but he said city council is planning to create a work group to explore the issue and reach out to community members for input. He said the council has ruled out asking voters in the May, 2023 election, but that it could come before voters at some point in the future.

According to the League of Oregon Cities, compensation for city council members around the state ranges from nothing at all to hundreds of dollars a month. The vast differences in how city council members are compensated, if at all, does not always correlate to the size of the city.

For instance, as of May 2020, the city of St. Helens, OR, which is not much larger than Newport, paid its council members $800 per month. The City of Salem, however—one of the largest in the state—did not pay its council members anything, other than providing a cell phone and laptop for city business.

In Eugene, council members receive an annual stipend of $19,015, according to a city spokesperson.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”