(Editor’s Note: This post was updated to reflect that based on the city of Kyle records dated back to the year 2000, Alison Castillo has not served on the Kyle City Council.)
By Amira Van Leeuwen
KYLE — Credit card and reimbursement policies of the Kyle City Council were visited by the Council Compensation Committee.
The Compensation Committee met on Aug. 10 to discuss and review policies related to the city council’s compensation including credit cards, reimbursements and any policies that fall in line with the city charter.
The committee unanimously voted (6-0) to leave the city council’s compensation as is for the upcoming fiscal year.
In the current fiscal year 2021-2022, which ends Sept. 30, the city council has spent $134,006 out of its total approved budget of $224,928 as of July 30. According to the city’s Director of Finance Perwez Moheet, there is no breakdown of which members have spent that money because they are all combined.
“When you have seven together, not all seven are going to spend exactly the same amount,” Moheet said.
The council members’ compensation is $1,000 per month, and the mayor’s compensation is $1,300 per month along with other benefits that include medical, dental and vision coverage. Premiums are paid 100% by city council members/mayor individually, if they choose to do so.
The committee also had an extensive discussion about mileage reimbursement, where committee member Rose Burke motioned to recommend the change of the mileage amount in the budget from $24,570 to $23,000 with a $5,000 limit for the mayor and the remaining $18,000 divided among the six other council members to $3,000 per council member. The motion was seconded by Brandi Heindl and the recommendation passed (5-1) with Phoenix Askevich voting against.
Although there are no wireless phone expenses proposed in the budget, the compensation committee also explored the idea of giving the city council a cell phone allowance. City staff said they preferred a cell phone stipend.
Currently, the city council’s budget allows for $17,500 for computer hardware (city-issued laptops or iPads).
“A lot of them prefer [city-issued laptops or iPads] because if something happens and there’s an open records request they don’t have to use their own personal equipment for city business,” said Jerry Hendrix, acting city manager.
Committee member Brad Growt questioned why city staff wasn’t giving the city council a VoIP license with a city-provided phone number.
“From a cost perspective, that would be much better, plus y’all would retain control of the number,” Growt said. “It’s transparent, and it’s a negligible technology cost that actually makes everything more secure and brings it more under the auspices of the city.”
Heindl motioned not to recommend a cell phone allowance, which was seconded by Askevich, and the motion passed (6-0).
Prior to Aug. 10, the compensation committee had a meeting on Aug. 3 which included frequent back-and-forth attempts to clarify what should be an allowable expense instead of what city council members should be paid for.
Alison Castillo said that compensation should only be what a council member has spent to be on the council.
Burke brought up the point about maintaining a professional image regarding outward appearance.
“Some people think they want to present a better image, they want to dress up a little bit and maybe they want to wear a suit or something they would have some dry cleaning and that. Well, normally under regular business expenses, anything like that, that is on you,” Burke said on Aug. 3. “However, I could see where if you were given a thousand dollars, you might take that into consideration, that includes me covering that kind of thing where I want to get my nails done, if I want to get my hair done — you know I want to provide a more professional image.”
Askevich said that the idea of paying someone a stipend to do their nails does not seem right.
“TV personalities have to get paid for their looks and appearance, but that’s because that’s their professional job,” Askevich said.
Compensation committee members also indicated they were ill-prepared to review city council compensation due to the lack of provided documents.
“To be honest, I thought we were going to have some kind of packet when I got here. Not to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, but I looked at the packet, and the packet I received was just an agenda,” Burke said.
Committee member Mario Perez agreed with Burke that it was his understanding that the compensation council would be supplied with a draft of the policies.
The Compensation Committee Council will bring recommendations from the Aug. 10 meeting to the city council that include clarification, among other facts, on Aug. 16 at 5 p.m.