ST. LOUIS – A committee with the St. Louis Board of Aldermen held a public hearing Saturday on a proposal to raise their salaries.

Discussions begin before the board will be reduced from 28 to 14 members in April.

Alderwoman Carol Howard has been advocating for salary increases, while Alderman Joe Vaccaro is against the idea altogether.  

The board’s personnel and administration committee asked for public input on proposed pay increases in a rare Saturday meeting. The current board bill, introduced by Ald. Howard, proposes a $72,000 salary. The board heard public input, but just three people made their voices heard in the virtual meeting. 

“You will make more than a captain on a fire department. You are not that valuable,” said citizen Lori Crawford.

A 15th ward committeewoman named Karisa Gilman-Hernandez came forward to tell the board, “I think you have been woefully underpaid for a very long time.”

If the committee comes to an agreement on an exact salary, and it gets to the full board, raises could rake effect after the spring elections.

“The money is already allocated,” Howard said. “When we reduce the number of aldermen, we will not reduce our budget.” 

Ald. Howard proposed in Board Bill 119 she’d like to see salaries double to $72,000. Ald. Vaccaro is against the idea of any pay bump for aldermen or alderwomen.

“I think that is completely wrong,” he said. “I think that we are very well compensated for the job we do, and for anybody to say otherwise is wrong.” 

Howard isn’t settled on $72,000, and some other members of the committee wanted an increase but wanted it to be comparable to an average city worker’s pay.

I’m open to any amendments,” Howard said. “I’m only sponsoring the bill because I think we need to take care of our city. I won’t be benefiting from this. I’ve made that perfectly clear.”

Alder people are currently making less than $38,000 annually. They will ultimately end up serving more people as the wards are consolidated.

I can tell you right now, I would do this job for less money,” Vaccaro said.  

Howard is running for re-election while Vaccaro is not.

He wants to make this a full-time job,” Howard said. “I don’t know what constitutes a full-time job. People don’t go in this for the salary.”

While Vaccaro already made that clear, he wanted to define what being a full-time alderperson means when introducing Board Bill 126. It was also discussed in the virtual meeting.

“If you at least have to show up one hour, whatever that hour is, 8 in the morning, pick the hour at least if a constituent calls, you can answer that call,” he said. “But [fellow aldermen/women] were pretty much objected to that, and I think by doing what they did, in a sense, kills that bill,” he said. 

As far as future salaries go, Board President Megan Green told the committee before she left the meeting to compile more information and get more feedback from constituents.

“The proposal that I’m going to make is that we hold this for another meeting,” Green said.

A date for that meeting has not been set yet.