The small town of Rockford in south Spokane County is taking some unusual steps to save money in the face of a shrinking budget and rising costs. Recently the town council voted to eliminate the pay of the mayor and council members.
The change will not take effect immediately, however, since state law stipulates that a council cannot change its own pay. “Everybody still has their original compensation through the end of the year,” Mayor Micki Harnois said. “You cannot change in mid-term the amount you receive.”
Several seats on the council and the position of mayor are up for election in November. The pay reduction will affect those who take office in January. Two people who hold seats that are not up for election will continue to be paid through the end of their terms.
The amount paid isn’t significant, Harnois said, but every little bit counts. Council members were paid $20 per meeting and $25 for a special meeting. The mayor was paid $40 per meeting.
The pay for special meetings – they have roughly two a year – was not eliminated, although Harnois expects a vote to do so soon.
“Revenue is just not coming into towns and cities like it used to,” she said. “None of us are on the council for the money. Our heart is to be there for the town and make it run for the benefit of the people.”
Rockford has a lot of vacant homes and some homeowners are not paying taxes, she said. “We have liens on a lot of properties,” she said. The town has also struggled in recent years with the rising cost of its policing contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
The town’s clerk/treasurer recently retired and is not being replaced. Public works director John Goyke is taking on those duties. Goyke is the town’s only full-time employee; there’s also a part-time assistant clerk and a part-time public works assistant.
Goyke’s job is something of a balancing act because a public works director usually spends a lot of time out in the field and a clerk usually spends all his or her time in the office. Goyke leaves to do his public works duties when the deputy clerk is in the office to answer the phone, Harnois said.
“The council agreed that we would try this for six months,” Harnois said. “We’ll just check it out every so often and see how it’s working.”
The town also recently quit contracting for lawn mowing. The work is being done by volunteers instead.
More changes are on the horizon. The council has already discussed closing City Hall one day a week, Harnois said.