Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca’s Common Council members rejected a proposal to raise their own salaries in a 9 to 1 vote Wednesday night.

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Council members are paid $9,641 a year for their work with the city.

George McGonigal, who represents the 1st ward, supported raising that pay to $10,000 a year.

“I think we need to respect ourselves,” McGonigal said, adding that it had been about six years since Common Council members last saw an increase in their salaries.

McGonigal’s proposal went down after Council members Ellen McCollister (D-3rd Ward) and Seph Murtagh (D-2nd Ward) said that they didn’t think the city was far enough from the Recession to justify a pay hike.

 “If we find we’re in better financial territory I might be comfortable with something like this,” Murtagh said.

McCollister expressed her agreement with Murtagh’s position.

“I don’t think this is the time,” she said.

Still, Council member J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) said more pay could be crucial in attracting a diverse Council staff — and, ultimately, one more reflective of Ithaca.

“Do we only want people who are totally well off, who are financially secure?,” Clairborne said. He noted that the current pay levels may not be enough to get poorer Ithaca citizens from participating in the city’s government, even if they could offer valuable perspectives and contributions.

Ultimately, however, the Council came to a consensus that it was not ready to raise its salaries.

“I think this is an important issue, and we need to support encouraging more diversity on council,” said Cynthia Brock, who represents the first ward. “…I’m very hopeful next year we might be in a better position.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.