By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Mayor Bob Rice didn't ask for a raise, but one was budgeted anyway. On Monday night, Rice told the Finance Committee of the Havre City Council to take that 3 percent - about $570 - and put it into his travel and training account.
"I agreed not to take a raise for four years, and it was put in there," Rice told the committee. The raise, which would increase Rice's salary to $19,570, has been budgeted for, but has not yet been approved by the City Council.
In last year's budget, the mayor's travel and training account had $1,000. During a June budget session, the Finance Committee pared the mayor's yearly allowance down to $950 because as of May 1, with just weeks left in the fiscal year, the mayor had only spent 74 percent of it.
At that time, Rice protested the cut. He told the committee he still had a trip to Calgary planned, and that during his previous trips he had paid for food and gas out of his own pocket, only recording his hotel rooms for reimbursement. With another lean year in the city budget looming, the cut stayed.
Since the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, Rice said Monday, only $52 of that $950 is left. That is in part due to the mayor's widely publicized efforts to reach out to Canadians. He did so after hearing reports last spring that some Canadian visitors were not treated well in Montana because of their government's refusal to support the war in Iraq.
Rice took a trip to Calgary in July, where he represented Havre as a guest of honor at the Calgary Stampede. Also in July he went to Medicine Hat and Maple Creek, where he represented Havre in those towns' annual celebrations. He also went to Butte for an economic development meeting in August and to Billings in October for the annual fall convention of the Montana League of Cities and Towns. He used the account to pay for hotel rooms in Calgary, Medicine Hat and Butte, he said today. He stayed with the mayor in Maple Creek and did not file a travel claim for the trip to Billings.
With little discussion Monday night, the committee voted 4-0 in favor of the transfer.
"Three percent of $19,000 isn't too much of a raise," City Council member Emily Mayer told Rice before the vote.
The transfer is tentative, since raises for non-union city employees have not yet been approved this year, said Finance Committee chair Tom Farnham today. Once the city signs contracts with the public works and firefighters unions, both of which are still being negotiated, the raises budgeted for non-union employees will be brought before the council for approval. If approved, the raises would be retroactive to July 1.
Rice said the money will be used for "just my normal travel" - conferences like the Montana League of Cities and Towns convention in Butte this January, a Montana mayors conference in Billings, and an annual conference on emergency management in February. He said he'll use the money only for hotel rooms.
"That was a campaign promise I made and I'm sticking to it," Rice said today about his decison not to accept a raise.
He added, "I would have had to ask for an increase in my travel allowance anyway. Fifty-two dollars is not going to get me through the year."