Council members' per diems released
WORTHINGTON -- Scott Nelson says he does it to give back.
For Ron Wood, it's to be involved.
But neither Worthington City Council member does it for the money.
In numbers recently released, Nelson had the highest per diem numbers of any member for 2013 at $3,500. Wood had the lowest at $1,250.
Per diems are allowed for the mayor and each member of council. Members are allowed to collect for one meeting per day at $50 each.
"It's for the sub city committees they are appointed to serve on to represent the city -- the park advisory board, the airport board, those types of things," City Clerk Janice Oberloh said. "Or something where we might have a project for a few years, like the YMCA thing, that would be approved.
"If it's something where they come in and meet with (Administrator) Craig (Clark), they don't get to turn those in," she added. "If it's a spur of the moment of if they met with a constituent over something, they don't get to turn those in."
According to Oberloh, Nelson had the biggest increase from a year ago after turning in $1,400 in 2012. However, that was due in large part to the committees on which he serves. Nelson is on the Worthington Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) for the first time this year.
"It probably means I attend more meetings," Nelson said. "We've had a lot of HRA meetings. We're trying to work on this 40-unit housing project, and we've met a lot of times. We've done a new personnel manual and gone through all of that. We hired a new director and retired the old one."
While Wood's per diem numbers were low, he said that wasn't because he isn't involved.
"I don't turn a lot of stuff in," he said. "While I was at (Southwest Minnesota State University), I just had a lot of things I forgot to turn in.
"I met (Monday) and spent a little over an hour (at city hall)," he continued. "We don't turn those kinds of things in. The other thing is my meeting -- I have the Water and Light Commission twice a month, and some of the other committees I'm on are a little lighter. The golf committee only meets from about March through October."
The base salary for council members in Worthington is $6,000. The base salary for the council and mayor was last raised in 2005.
"I absolutely don't do it for the money," Nelson said. "I do it for the involvement and to give back."
"When you look at the rest of my career, this is very minimal," Wood said. "I did it because I wanted to help the city of Worthington, and I wanted to be an active part of the decision making."
Compared to other base salaries in five area cities, Worthington has the highest.
Windom's mayor is paid $4,600 annually, while council members make $4,000. Jackson's mayor earns $4,920 and council members make $3,240. Luverne's mayor makes $5,900 and council members make $5,000. Marshall's mayor earns $8,579.15 annually, while council members make $5,426.40. In Fairmont, the mayor earns $4,800 and council members make $2,400.
Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh's salary is $10,000. He collected $3,200 in per diems.
"It isn't just committee meetings and conferences and regular city council meetings," Janice Oberloh said. "The mayor spends a good deal of his time at his body shop with constituents coming in and talking to him, depending on what the issues are in the community."
Worthington City Council member Mike Kuhle collected $2,650 in per diems, while Diane Graber had $3,200 and Rod Sankey $2,150.
"They spend a lot of time," Janice Oberloh said. "The job for them is a whole lot more than a meeting on the second and fourth Monday of each month."
The mayor and council members are also allowed to attend conferences. Mayor Oberloh had the highest amount of expense with $3,843.60. However, one-third of those expense were with his trip to Crailsheim on the city's behalf. It also included a trip to Cuero, Texas, for Turkeyfest. Sankey had $2,359.67 in conferences and trips, while Graber had $1.390.14.
"The new members tend to go to some of the big conferences, like the League (of Greater Minnesota Cities) and the Coalition (of Greater Minnesota) to get up to speed on things because they are new," Janice Oberloh said, referring to Graber and Sankey. "Ron was very busy, so based on his availability and time that would explain why he wouldn't go to some of those events."
Wood had the lowest at $24.99.
"The utility basically takes care of his," Janice Oberloh said. "They do the Water and Light meetings, obviously, and his City Council ones are included in his salary. Depending on which organization he's representing ... (that's) where reimbursement comes from."
Kuhle had $861.33 in reimbursements and Nelson had $448.45.