Mayor Jan Hill swears in assembly members Tom Morphet and Heather Lende. (Emily Files)

Mayor Jan Hill swears in assembly members Tom Morphet and Heather Lende in October 2016. (Emily Files)

During spring budget talks, the Haines Assembly decided to reduce the mayor’s salary following the October election. But now efforts to codify the salary cut are sparking opposition.

The proposal to decrease mayor pay didn’t cause much discussion during the budget process.

Assemblyman Ron Jackson pointed to data from the Alaska Municipal League, which shows how Haines’ $15,000 salary compared to other communities. Sitka, Petersburg and Kodiak pay in the $6,000 range. Wrangell has no mayor compensation. Skagway pays $12,000 and Juneau pays $30,000.

As a cost-saving measure, the assembly decided to align the salary more closely with Petersburg and Sitka. That means cutting it by more than half – from $15,000 to $6,000.

“The average of a lot of them with our population and as high as 13,000 people was about $6,000 dollars,” Jackson said. “And that’s the basis of that figure.”

There was some discussion about how Haines’ mayor compensation may be a holdover from the strong mayor form of government. Now, the town has a strong manager structure.

“I think this is just wrong,” said John Winge, who was one of a handful of residents who spoke against the salary cut at Tuesday’s meeting.

The assembly held a hearing on an ordinance that would codify the change.

“To me, the whole council, the mayor is kind of the part that has to tie you people together,” Winge said. “And dropping the salary, I don’t think is right.”

The assembly zeroed out money for a lobbyist contract in the FY18 budget. Carol Tuynman said that gives even more of a reason to maintain the mayor’s current compensation.

“Since we no longer have a lobbyist I think the mayor has a role in lobbying along with the assembly and possibly the public,” Tunyman said. “We need a strong team of people.”

The pay cut wouldn’t take effect until after the Oct. 3 election, where the mayoral seat is up for grabs.

Incumbent Jan Hill is running for re-election against political newcomer Joanie Wagner. Hill has not publicly expressed support or opposition to the salary reduction.

Assembly member Sean Maidy, who was appointed after the budget process, said he would have a difficult time voting for the decrease.

“I’m still torn on it,” Maidy said. “I wasn’t here for the budget so this is more emotion than reasoning for me, but I’ve been hearing from a lot of people saying they’re not happy with the drastic reduction.”

The assembly still has one more public hearing before deciding whether to finalize the mayor pay cut. The hearing is set for Sept. 12.