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Hundreds in Clarksdale sign petition opposing city-wide pay raises

Mayor says raises are justified
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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CLARKSDALE, Miss. (WMC) - It didn’t take long after a June 14 City Board meeting (page 3 & 4) in Clarksdale for word to spread about pay raises being given to city employees, most notably the city commissioners and mayor.

“They did it in secret, in executive session, that’s what ticks me off,” said John Mayo, a resident of Clarksdale since ’71. “You’re not allowed to talk about salaries in executive session.”

Clarksdale, MS Approved Pay Raises
Clarksdale, MS Approved Pay Raises(WMC)

The pay raises would give $2,600 to city employees, $5,000 for department heads, $20,000 to city commissioners, and $36,000 to the mayor.

Commissioners, who are part-time employees, will now have a salary of $46,650, and the mayor’s new salary will be $122,421, making them among the highest paid elected municipal leaders in the state of Mississippi.

The total of all the raises is $416,400.

“We’re not even in the top 20 of the largest cities in Mississippi,” Mayo said.

Mayo, who served as Mayor of Clarksdale from ‘86-’89 and State Representative from ‘00-’11, doesn’t see how the city can justify these raises.

In just under two weeks, Mayo has been able to gather 600 signatures opposing the raises.

“We are in the Delta,” Mayo said. More homes are torn down in a year than are built. Where the hell are they going to get the money in a city that’s losing it’s tax base and population?”

Mayor Chuck Espy sees otherwise and says the city’s finances are capable of sustaining the raises.

While he believes city employees on the lower level deserve a raise, Mayo says it can’t be accomplished this way.

He plans to present his argument before the City Board during Monday’s meeting.

“I’m asking the board to completely rescind their raise and take another look at what they are giving the employees to give the employees a raise but in a rate that the city can afford,” said Mayo.

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