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City Council considers increasing budget for job costs

June 07, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

Hagerstown officials are considering a bigger budget for council members' job-related costs.

Currently, each council member can be reimbursed for up to $1,000 a year in expenses.

During a discussion at Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting, Finance Director Alfred Martin said it would cost at least $3,000 a year to send a council member to both a statewide conference and a national conference.

He suggested raising the spending limit to $4,000 per person.

The mayor currently is allowed up to $3,000 a year.

The $1,000 council limit became an issue when three council members attended the National League of Cities' Congress of Cities and Exposition in Charlotte, N.C., in December.

The combined cost was about $3,600, based on preliminary figures provided by the city.

Martin said the city needs to start categorizing council members' expenses.

A conference registration might be considered "official," while meals might be considered "personal," City Attorney Mark Boyer said.

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Council members who attended the National League of Cities conference said money spent on education and networking is worth it.

"Anytime there's an opportunity to learn more and do better, I'll be there," said Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer, who attended the National League of Cities conference with Councilwomen Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner agreed, adding that conferences are packed all day with seminars and sessions. "It is truly another aspect of the job," he said.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire questioned increasing the expense limit. He said a future council should decide.

Martin said he will work on a proposal for the council.

Until then, council members still may sign up for this month's Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City, Md., he said.

According to Martin, the MML convention might cost more than $1,200 per person, including registration, mileage and hotel rooms.

He estimated the cost of attending the National League of Cities conference at $1,500 to $1,750 because it requires a plane ticket.

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