Haines mayor Jan Hill at a candidate forum Sept. 13. (Emily Files)

Haines mayor Jan Hill at a candidate forum Sept. 13. (Emily Files)

The Haines Assembly unanimously approved a budget change that drew last-minute opposition from some residents.

The assembly agreed to cut to the borough mayor’s salary by about half – from $15,000 to $7,000 per year.

Amending code to reflect that change was the final step after the assembly endorsed the idea in the current fiscal year’s budget a few months ago.

But residents like Carol Tuynman asked the assembly to reconsider.

“Please consider carefully the implications and unintended consequences of reducing the compensation of the mayor at this time,” Tuynman said. “The people of Haines deserve and I think need outstanding leadership that can only come about by understand the skills and responsibilities inherent in highly effective governance.”

The salary cut won’t take effect until after the Oct. 3 election. That means either incumbent Jan Hill or challenger Joanie Wagner will be the first to experience the reduced pay.

Hill told KHNS after the meeting that the assembly’s decision “didn’t feel good.” She said she doesn’t do the job for the money, but with the level of work she puts in, the compensation is nice.

Wagner said her impression after spring budget talks was that the mayor salary was being reduced to zero. She said she is glad there is still some income.

Haines has a strong manager form of government, which means the powers of the mayor are largely ceremonial. The mayor runs assembly meetings and only votes if there is a tie.

The assembly members were persuaded to reduce mayor compensation when they learned how much other Southeast communities pay their mayors. This change brings Haines in line with Sitka and Petersburg, where mayors earn around $6,000 annually.