Council cuts BRT pay

By a vote of 16-1, City Council this morning cut the salaries of the seven members of the Board of Revision of Taxes, reducing the chair's pay from $75,000 to $50,000 and compensating most other members with a $150 per diem.

Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell was the lone dissenting vote. She has consistently opposed BRT reform out of concern for the agency's patronage employees, but after the Council meeting she said voted against the measure because it was only a "symbolic" gesture and did not address the BRT's long-term issues.

"I want real reform," she said.

The pay cut, which came at Mayor Nutter's request, has been widely anticipated ever since the BRT refused to renew an agreement with the Nutter administration that had given the mayor day-to-day control over the independent property assessment agency. The agency and the city are embroiled in a lawsuit, and relations between the board and the mayor are abysmal.

On May 18, voters are slated to approve a reject a charter change that would abolish the BRT and replace it with two new entities later this year: one would handle property assessments, the other would hear appeals of those assessments from property owners.

Originally, Nutter had asked that all members of the BRT have their pay - which had ranged from $70,000 to $75,000 a year for part-time work - to $18,700. Council, however, opted for salaries that are a match for those of the board that will replace the BRT if voters approve next month's charter change.

Under the new salary structure, BRT Chair Charlesretta Meade will receive $50,000 annually and board secretary Robert N.C. Nix III will receive $45,000 a year.

All other members will be paid a $150 per diem. Judging by the BRT's hearing schedule, the $150 rate will yield the remaining five directors just $1,800 for the rest of this tax year, assuming the BRT members only show up for work at scheduled meetings. It is not entirely clear if they can draw a per diem for those days where no public meetings are scheduled.

Voters could make all of this debate over salary relatively meaningless if they approve the May charter change. In that event, the seven members of the BRT will be out of a job as of Oct. 1, 2010.

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