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Ashland ballot measure would dramatically boost city council pay, but could save money

Four people sitting at a large conference table with laptops, name tags and microphones in front of them. Behind them on the wall is a large seal that says "City of Ashland Oregon." the nametags from left to right read "Dylan Bloom," "Jeff Dahle," "Tonya Graham," "Bob Kaplan"
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
Members of the Ashland City Council in a meeting in March 2023

During a special election on May 16, Ashland voters will decide on a measure that would dramatically boost the compensation for the mayor and city council members. But, the proposal could ultimately save the city money.

The proposed change in ballot measure 15-215 up for a vote next month would pay council members and the mayor $900 a month. Right now, the mayor and city council members in Ashland only get paid $500 or $350 every year respectively. Any change to the mayor or council member’s compensation needs to be approved by voters.

The proposal is a response to council members having their city-sponsored health insurance cut last year. It was removed after it was discovered that the benefit wasn’t allowed according to the city charter.

In a letter from the voters pamphlet submitted by former city council members, they argue a monthly cash stipend is far cheaper than asking voters to approve health care benefits for the council.

At a city council meeting in February, Mayor Tonya Graham said the city could save around $70,000 a year by going with this monthly stipend instead of health care benefits.

Graham added the stipend would be optional and that council members could opt to donate it to a charity, if they prefer.

“The mayor and councilors attend dozens of meetings each year,” the past council members wrote. “The stipend helps offset the cost of childcare if the elected official has young children, as well as transportation costs.”

They add the proposal would also allow low-income residents more opportunities to run for office.

There are no arguments against this ballot measure in the voter’s pamphlet.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on May 16.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.